£100,000 seized in a single operation and 140 arrests since the start of Covid-19 restrictions – BTP County Lines Taskforce
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The work of British Transport Police to remove County Lines drug dealing from the railway has continued with 140 arrests since near the beginning of restrictions in April.
Its dedicated Taskforce, started in December with Home Office funding, carries out operations across England, Wales and Scotland almost daily.
Since it began, the team has made 416 arrests, removed 38 dangerous weapons from the railway, and seized substantial amounts of drugs and illicit cash.
Recent notable incidents include:
170 wraps of suspected class A drugs stuffed inside a tub of Vaseline were found where a 17-year-old boy from London was arrested at Basingstoke station in Hampshire on Sunday 7 June. The arrest following work by the BTP and Hampshire Police County lines teams.
Approximately £100,000 was seized at Liverpool Lime Street station when a middle-aged man was stopped during a joint operation between British Transport Police and Merseyside Police on Saturday 23 May,
Another man, aged 27, was arrested at Liverpool Lime Street station on Tuesday 12 May when a package of suspected cannabis was found tucked beneath the pram of his four-day-old boy.
County Lines drug dealing is the movement of drugs by gangs from cities into smaller towns – they exploit and intimidate children or vulnerable adults into couriering the drugs, or cash it generates, between locations, often using the railway.
The aim of the Taskforce is to safeguard the people exploited by County Lines gangs and to remove this type of criminal activity from the railway network.
A large proportion of those arrested by the Taskforce for drug offences are under the age of 18 and more than half are under 24 years of age.
The youngest arrested to date was a 14-year-old boy who was stopped at Brighton station with 12 rocks of crack cocaine in January 2020.
Efforts are made to safeguard any vulnerable or exploited person arrested as part of County Lines, referring them to services built to encourage and support the person away from dangerous criminal activity.
Thirteen people have been referred to the National Referral Mechanism for safeguarding since the Taskforce began.
Taskforce lead, Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams, said: “Our Taskforce is in a unique position. We are the only force that operates nationally, and it means we have a deep understanding of how this issue is impacting communities on a national scale.
“Our experience has proven that gangs who use the railway network rely on younger people to move drugs. These individuals are victims, forced through exploitation or intimidation into desperate situations, and it’s always our priority to make support available that can get them out of harm and away from crime.
“Since December, we’ve been carrying out operations on a daily basis, always based on developing intelligence that shows where gangs are operating. We get part of our information through working in partnership with other law enforcement agencies, but also importantly through the support of the rail industry who train their staff to spot signs of exploitation.
“Key indicators include a young child travelling long distances, alone with a large amount of cash, or avoiding any sort of authority at stations. These indicators are small but invaluable and help inform where we target next. There is an evolving understanding of County Lines offending and we are prepared to tackle it, wherever the intelligence leads us.”