County lines dismantled and children safeguarded during week of enhanced action
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Vulnerable children were safeguarded and drug supply lines dismantled as British Transport Police (BTP) took part in a national week of enhanced action to disrupt County Lines activity.
Across 106 operations from 7–13 March, officers arrested 70 people, made 58 drug seizures, removed 21 dangerous weapons from the railway and safeguarded 22 vulnerable people, including 17 children.
The aim of the week was to intercept drugs as they were moved between locations using the railway, arrest the criminals peddling them and safeguard children and vulnerable adults being exploited in this activity.
Spearheaded by BTP’s County Lines Taskforce, the operations were conducted on key train routes and at stations across the network in England, Scotland and Wales, often supported by regional police forces.
Deployments comprised uniformed and plain clothes officers, passive drugs dogs and metal detection arches as well as experts in child exploitation seconded into BTP’s Taskforce from the third sector.
In tandem with the week of action BTP promoted the Look Closer awareness campaign which has been developed in partnership with The Children’s Society.
The campaign aims to educate railway workers and passengers on the tell-tale signs of child exploitation, and report any concerns to the police.
Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams, BTP’s County Lines Taskforce lead, said: “Last week’s results show how we are disrupting these networks and protecting young and vulnerable people from toxic county lines gangs.
“This isn’t a one-off for us – my specialist teams are on the rail network every day tackling this activity. We’re as determined as ever to track down offenders at the top of the chain and bring them to justice.
“Anyone can be exploited, there’s no ‘perfect victim’. That’s why we, along with our charity partners and policing colleagues, are urging everyone on the railway to learn signs of child exploitation and report any concerns to us by texting 61016.”
Crime & Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: “For too long the rail network has been abused by destructive County Lines gangs, but I’ve seen first-hand the commitment of the British Transport Police and together we are disrupting this poisonous business model.
“By relentlessly tackling county lines activity on the rail network, they are thwarting drug dealers and making carefully calculated interventions that rescue children and the most vulnerable in society from the grip of this dangerous life.
“As part of the Government’s ten-year Drugs Strategy, we're investing up to £145m more in our successful County Lines Programme over the next three years, which will include bolstering the efforts of this dedicated taskforce.”
James Simmonds-Read, National Manager of The Children’s Society’s Prevention programme, said: “It’s vital that police identify instances where children have been exploited by criminals, so they can be offered protection and support.
“Young people may be too scared to tell someone what is happening or may have been manipulated into thinking they are making a choice. That’s why Look Closer urges everyone – not just police and other professionals – to look for signs of child exploitation in all public places and report concerns.
“This includes commuters and people working at railway stations and on trains, because we know criminals exploiting children in county lines operations often force them to use public transport to move drugs to other areas.”