17-year-old arrested and referred for safeguarding as part of focused fortnight tackling County Lines activity
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A 17-year-old boy has been arrested and referred to the National Referral Mechanism for Safeguarding after being found in possession of £2,000, heroin and crack cocaine at Crewe railway station.
The arrest was part of a two-week period of focused efforts during which BTP teamed up with local forces to tackle organised criminals using the rail network to transport drugs and illicit cash.
Between Monday 1 February and Sunday 14 February, officers carried out 139 targeted operations across England, Scotland and Wales, arresting 94 people, seizing 45 lots of drugs, £32,920 in illicit cash and removing 21 dangerous weapons from the rail network.
These operations are planned using the latest intelligence and carried out almost daily by BTP’s County Lines Taskforce – a police team dedicated to tackling organised criminals using the railway to transport drugs.
A key aim of the Taskforce is to identify and safeguard vulnerable children and adults often used by these organised criminals to transport drugs and cash between import and export locations, which can be hundreds of miles apart.
BTP County Lines Taskforce lead, Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams, said: “In the 14 months since our Taskforce was introduced, we have developed a picture of how these organised criminals use the rail network and vulnerable people to transport drugs and cash between locations.
“These operations working alongside our police colleagues are vital in disrupting County Lines activity wherever it occurs and reinforcing that the rail network is not viable place to export drugs across the county.
“A top priority of our dedicated Taskforce is to identify children who are being coerced into this criminal activity to get them out of harm’s way and away from crime.
“That’s why we’ve partnered with The Children’s Society on its Look Closer awareness campaign, which encourages professionals and the public to spot the signs that a child may being groomed and exploited while on the rail network and report their concerns to us.
“If you believe a child is being exploited on the rail network, text us on 61016. In an emergency, always call 999.”
Since the Taskforce was introduced with Home Office funding in December 2019, it has made 1,105 arrests, seized 576 lots of drugs and £368k in illicit cash, and removed 214 dangerous weapons from the rail network. It has also secured 15 modern day slavery charges.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: “These are fantastic results and show the hard work officers in BTP have been doing to tackle this pernicious and utterly appalling crime.
“The Government fully supports the police as they continue to break up these criminal gangs, who exploit the vulnerable to fuel the drug market and line their own pockets.
“We committed a further £40m in January to tackle drugs supply and county lines and surge police activity against these ruthless gangs – I’m delighted to see the impact that BTP’s work is having.”
Throughout the week, BTP officers and The Children’s Society promoted the Look Closer campaign, designed to encourage professionals and the public to ‘Look Closer’ for signs that a child may be at risk of criminal exploitation.
James Simmonds-Read, National Programme Manager at The Children’s Society’s Prevention programme, which runs the Look Closer campaign, said: “Criminals have adapted their methods to continue exploiting children under lockdown at a time when they may be feeling lonely, worried about family finances and have little respite from challenges or dangers at home.
“Children may be particularly vulnerable to offers of cash, gifts, food, friendship and status by perpetrators right now - but this grooming later turns into coercion as criminals deploy terrifying threats and violence to ensure compliance with their demands.
“Under lockdown, these young people and the risks they face are often less visible to professionals like teachers and social workers.
“That’s why we are encouraging everyone who sees children in their daily lives to look out for signs of exploitation and report any concerns to police, so these young people can be identified and offered the help they desperately need.”