VIDEO: Two charged with modern slavery offences after County Lines raid at flat in Surrey Quays - London
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Two people have been charged with modern slavery and class A drug offences following a dawn raid at a flat in south-east London.
The raid was linked to the arrest of a 13-year-old boy in Rochester station in Kent – he was arrested the week prior with £1,500 in cash, multiple mobile phones and markings of exploitation by County Lines gangs.
He has since been taken into police protection and is the youngest person BTP County Lines officers have been forced to arrest this year.
See the raid and how BTP is tackling County Lines gangs here:
Officers from British Transport Police entered the home in Surrey Quays at around 6am on Friday 25 September, they arrested a man and woman and seized money and weapons.
Both were charged the same day with counts of modern slavery and supplying class A drugs.
Measures were taken to protect a third person who owned the flat – officers suspected he was also a victim of exploitation.
Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams, of the British Transport Police County Lines Taskforce, said: “Sadly, it’s not uncommon for County Lines gangs to use children, especially when they’re using them to transport drugs on the railway. In our work, we routinely come across children who are 15, 16 and 17-years-old.
“These gangs often use extreme intimidation and exploitative tactics, such as money and new clothes, to encourage these children to travel far distances to areas they don’t know with class A drugs, where they’ll be alone and at a high risk of harm.
“When we arrest a child involved in County Lines our first intention is never to criminalise, but to give them protection and try to pull them away from the clutches of criminals, we’ll then target the gangs exploiting them – we’re carrying out operations on the railway daily to make sure this happens, and continually work with local police forces to ensure there is a nationwide response to County Lines.”
In the days before the raid, Kent Police secured the conviction of two people who were linked to County Lines in Kent and were suspected to have a connection to the London flat.
These efforts by BTP and Kent Police are an example of joint efforts by forces to tackle County Lines gangs.
The combined result is gangs being targeted at every stage, from the city locations where drugs are stored, on the rail routes they use to transport drugs, and in the towns and villages where they plan to sell.
Detective Superintendent Mike Worrall of Kent Police’s County Line and Gang Team said: “The dismantling of class A drug supply networks is a shared responsibility, which is why it is so important that police forces work closely together to target those intent on committing serious criminal offences.
“Drug dealers do not recognise county boundaries or care which force is responsible for policing a particular area. All they care about is making money from the supply of crack cocaine and heroin to some of the most vulnerable people in society, and taking whatever extreme measures they deem necessary to protect their harmful brand.
“We do not stand for it and have teams of experienced officers who are dedicated to removing drug networks from the streets of Kent, and we will continue to work with British Transport Police and other partners to ensure those responsible are brought to justice.”
The arrests following the raid at the flat in Surrey Quays, London, join months of operations by the British Transport Police County Lines Taskforce – these are often done with the support of local forces.
Since December 2019, after receiving funding from the Home Office, the Force created a Taskforce to target the issue of County Lines drug couriering and child exploitation on the railway.
To date, 725 people have been arrested, 369 amounts of drugs ranging in class and quantity have been seized, £245,000 in cash has been seized, and 122 weapons have been taken off the railway.
The single largest seizure to date was £53,000 worth of cocaine seized at Cambridge station in June. The man carrying the drugs admitted doing so to pay off an £8,000 debt to a gang.
The largest seizure of cash was £100,000 on a train in Liverpool Lime Street station in summer. A man was carrying the money, which was tightly packed into a plastic bag, in a backpack.