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British Transport Police (BTP) officers have seized £4,000 worth of drugs at Edinburgh Waverley this week as part of a County Lines operation to tackle drug smuggling.
BTP officers, with specialist drug dogs, took part in a targeted operation at Edinburgh Waverley station as part of BTP’s County Lines Taskforce to tackle drugs on the railway network, and to protect children and vulnerable adults who are often exploited by gangs into selling or moving drugs.
The officers, who were also joined by Police Scotland, made several arrests for drug offences – one of which included £4,000 worth of crack cocaine. The 19-year-old has been arrested for possession of a class A drug with intent to supply. A report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal and he will appear in court at a later date.
Other arrests included the possession of an offensive weapon when a 16-year-old was found to be carrying a knuckle duster. During the special operation they also safeguarded three people from criminal exploitation.
BTP has been carrying out County Lines operations across Scotland, England and Wales since it secured Home Office funding for a Taskforce in December 2019.
BTP Sergeant Pete Wilcock said: “The Taskforce continues to be very active and continues to crack down on violent crime and the trafficking of drugs on the railway network. Our priority is always safeguarding vulnerable people from criminal exploitation and during this operation we were able to put this into action with three individuals.
"We have been carrying out successful operations in Scotland through working in partnership with Police Scotland and other law enforcement agencies for a common purpose to protect vulnerable children and adults from exploitation. This continued partnership will ensure we can safeguard any vulnerable or exploited person and reduce crime on the railway.”
“My team’s significant efforts contribute to our national goal of ensuring the railway continues to be a very safe means of travel.”
During the UK-wide operations BTP officers prioritise safeguarding 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.
Since the Taskforce started a total of 33 children in the UK have been referred to the National Referral Mechanism for safeguarding to date. Additionally, there have been nearly 600 arrests to date, 288 seizures of drugs, 110 weapons seized and £220,000 in cash seized.
In Edinburgh BTP officers have made four seizures totalling over £40,000 since June this year.
Taskforce lead, Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams added:
“Our Taskforce is in a unique position, we operate nationally and target County Lines activity across the railway network.
“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 daily, 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 teenager 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. This is an evolving understanding of County Lines offending and we are prepared to tackle it, wherever the intelligence leads us.”
BTP has partnered with The Children’s Society #LookCloser awareness campaign to encourage professionals and the public to ‘Look Closer’ for signs that a child may be at risk of criminal exploitation.
People can report any concerns to the police on 101. If on a train they can text British Transport Police on 61016. But they should dial 999 if there is an immediate risk to a child.