England

County lines operation in Thames Valley leads to 106 arrests

Police searching a county lines property Image copyright TVP
Image caption Thames Valley Police searched 115 addresses during the six-day operation Stronghold to clampdown on county lines drug dealing

Police have arrested 106 people, seized £133,000 in cash and helped 112 vulnerable people in a clampdown on county lines drug dealing.

More than 2,800 wraps of cocaine, heroin and cannabis were seized across the Thames Valley in the operation.

County lines gangs move drugs from cities to smaller towns and rural areas, often exploiting young and vulnerable people.

Forty-three of the people "safeguarded" in the six-day operation were children.

Officers from Thames Valley Police (TVP) raided 115 addresses where organised crime gangs (OCGs) had taken over properties and forced vulnerable adults living there to sell drugs - a practice known as cuckooing.

Police also seized 147 phones, suspected of being used by urban gangs to move drugs across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire, and weapons including flick knives and machetes.

The force worked with local authorities, schools, health professionals and charities to pinpoint people exploited by the gangs.

TVP said it had "safeguarded" the vulnerable children and adults by removing them from the immediate vicinity.

They were then put in touch with services including housing associations, social services and homeless charities.

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Media captionWhat is County Lines?

Det Ch Supt Richard List said: "I see the fact that we have safeguarded a number of adults and children from being exploited through violence, fear and intimidation by drug dealers this week as a real success."

The force said it visited 41 schools across the Thames Valley to speak to children and teachers about how to spot if someone is being groomed by an OCG.

Image copyright South Wales Police
Image caption Jerome Tarek Wallis ran a "sophisticated" network, Swansea Crown Court heard

Earlier this month a convicted child rapist was jailed for forcing an orphan to leave London and deal heroin and crack cocaine in Swansea.

Jerome Tarek Wallis, 20, took the 15-year-old from his home before driving him 200 miles away to Wales in July last year.

He was sentenced to eight years in detention at a young offenders institution.

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