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Plain clothes British Transport Police (BTP) officers seized two suitcases containing a combined 16.5 kilograms of cannabis on the first of four days of enhanced national action tackling county lines.
The first suitcase, containing 10.5 kilograms of cannabis, was seized from a man at Birmingham New Street station on the morning of Monday 16 January. Just an hour later a second suitcase, this time containing 6 kilograms of cannabis, was seized from a man and a woman at Wolverhampton station.
BTP’s County Lines Taskforce – a team dedicated to disrupting drug supply on the railway – coordinated four days of operations (16-19 January) on trains and at stations in London, the Midlands and Scotland.
Its teams partnered with regional police forces and deployed specialist resources, such as drugs dogs, to intercept weapons, drugs and illicit cash, and safeguard vulnerable individuals exploited by county lines gangs.
In total, 33 people were arrested, three deal lines were identified, and large quantities of heroin, crack cocaine and cannabis were seized, as well as 23 phones and five dangerous weapons.
In addition, three people were identified and referred to safeguarding services after officers made vital interventions on the rail network.
Detective Inspector Brian Buddo, of BTP’s County Lines Taskforce, said: “The results from this intelligence-led operation are testament to the effective joint working between us, our policing colleagues and third sector partners. The arrests and seizures made should serve as a stark warning to county lines offenders – our plain clothes teams will catch you and put you before the courts.
“As well as intercepting harmful drugs before they reach our communities, a key priority of ours is to identify and safeguard children exploited in this crime type to courier drugs via the railway. Across the four days of intensive activity spanning the entirety of England and Scotland, we made a number of crucial safeguarding interventions.”
In tandem with the enhanced operational activity, the Taskforce 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.
Ellie Fairgrieve, National Operations Manager at The Children’s Society said: “Every day we can see how children and young people are coerced and exploited by criminals into activities like ‘county lines’. By joining up with the County Lines Taskforce, social workers and our practitioners can reach out and help victims of county lines in parallel to the work of the BTP’s to disrupt criminal activity and stop the exploitation of children and young people on the rail network.
“It’s vital these young people get the right help and support to stop being exploited. Our Look Closer campaign highlights how everyone from commuters to transport and shop staff can spot the signs of child exploitation and play a part in helping them escape from it. It has been fantastic to have the support of the BTP in sharing this important message.”