THOUSANDS of pounds worth of cocaine and heroin, firearms and combat knives have been seized by West Midlands Police during a week-long blitz on County Lines drugs networks.
The campaign targeting organised crime groups was carried out throughout the West Midlands between February 1 and 7 when officers actioned 31 warrants at addresses linked to cross-border drugs supply and made 74 arrests locally and 133 in the wider region.
Officers also ran Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) operations looking for people moving drugs by road and worked with British Transport Police to identify any drugs runners using the rail system.
One of the biggest operations saw the Coventry Gangs Unit team up with traffic officers and other units to intercept two men suspected of running a County Line into Warwickshire.
They arrested the pair, both aged 27, from a BMW parked in The Uplands at around 3pm on February 4 and seized a ball of compressed cocaine plus 70 dealer wraps.
Officers went on to search six houses in the city, arresting more people and seizing vehicles.
A total of seven people were arrested in connection with the drugs operation.
The lead County Lines officer Supt Rich Agar, said: “There has been no let-up in our determination to tackle County Lines offenders during CoVID-19.
“Any offenders who thought we’d taken our foot off the gas got a shock last week.”
Police also safeguarded 22 vulnerable people and visited 39 potential ‘cuckoo’ addresses – homes dealers use as drugs dens.
Supt Agar added: “Our work continues this week as, alongside partners in local authorities, health and charities, our focus turns to safeguarding and to divert young people who are vulnerable to County Lines exploitation away from criminal gangs and on to brighter futures.”
Other areas targeted included Wolverhampton, Evesham, Hereford and Kidderminster.
The Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Waheed Saleem said: “Exploiters use young or vulnerable people to distribute drugs through County Lines activity.
“It’s a dangerous web to get caught up in and is destructive at every level – threatening the safety and damaging the health and prospects of the young people involved, their families, and their communities.
“Our Violence Reduction Unit works with a number of partners to offer young people a way out.
“Through support services in Accident and Emergency, Police Custody, in schools and in the community, we aim to be alongside them as they navigate their way out of complex and frightening situations.
“It’s terrifying for parents, siblings and for those who care about these young people to acknowledge what might be going on, and it can seem like you are alone. We are working to raise awareness of the early signs of exploitation and to support those who think it might be affecting their family or their community.
“It’s possible to prevent young people falling into the traps set by exploiters by fostering communities where they have a strong sense of belonging, and the security that comes with decent housing, education, jobs, healthcare, family support and a route to prosper. Together, we can make that ambition a reality.”
Intelligence suggests there are currently around 100 County Lines running out of Birmingham across the UK, to places as far afield as Cornwall and Scotland.