Drug gangs who exploit the vulnerable targeted by police

By Barrie Hudson - 14 September 2020

CommunityCrime

Wiltshire Police are cracking down on county lines drug gangs.

The force says this week's operation is part of its ongoing fight to disrupt the gangs and protect the vulnerable from harm.

This week, according to a spokesperson, officers and staff will be focusing their efforts on addressing the threat posed by county lines drugs gangs on the young and vulnerable, using predominantly education and safeguarding tactics and urging people to know the signs that someone may be being exploited. 

This work will coincide with the national roll out of the #LookCloser campaign by The Children’s Society in partnership with the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre (NCLCC) and British Transport Police (BTP).

Throughout this week, regular visits will be made to vulnerable people who are believed to be at risk of exploitation. These visits will be carried out in partnership with Turning Point to ensure the relevant support service details are provided to those in need. 

The police's Early Intervention Team, supported by local PCSOs, will also be delivering presentations to local schools and colleges to raise awareness of criminal exploitation. 

Det Insp Paul Franklin said: “Here in Wiltshire we are committed to tackling county lines drugs gangs and protecting those at risk of being exploited by these gangs. 

"It is important to stress that day in, day out, we are seeing good results from our teams who are constantly cracking down on these gangs, leading to a greater number of arrests and convictions, as well as the seizure of drugs and weapons from our streets.”

Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon Angus Macpherson said: “We know that the public have real concerns about the impact of county lines drugs gangs in their communities, however, they should feel reassured by the ongoing efforts by officers and staff across the force in tackling this type of organised criminality. 

“I am pleased to hear that a lot of work on this subject is being planned with our young people – specifically those aged 15 to 18 who are most at risk of being exploited by drugs gangs, to help raise awareness of the signs to look out for and how they can safeguard themselves and others. 

"This is a really important age group for us to engage with and I am confident that the work planned this week will have a positive impact on these individuals.”

The week of activity also falls under Project Optimise – the force’s approach to serious and organised crime. 

The spokesperson said the community played a vital role in helping to tackle serious and organised crime, which can range from drugs and violence, to burglary and money laundering. 

Anybody who suspects crime is asked to call the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.

Discussion throughout the week can be followed on the force's social media channels using hashtags #CountyLines #LookCloser.

Signs that a young person may be being exploited include: 

- Increased mobile phone activity
- Unexplained injuries
- Change in mood
- Gang associations
- New expensive possessions they cannot account for
- Missing from home
- Increase in antisocial behaviour
- Decline in school grades

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