England

County lines: Weapons and drugs seized in police raids

Police officers Image copyright ERSOU
Image caption Police raided 23 properties on Tuesday and Wednesday

Sixty-one people have been arrested in police raids to stem the flow of "county lines" drugs from London.

Officers seized 1,000 wraps of Class A drugs, knives, imitation firearms and £20,000 in cash across 23 properties.

More than 200 officers from seven forces were drafted in for the raids on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The operation was aimed at disrupting London drug gangs supplying towns in the East of England - known as "county lines" networks.

Image copyright ERSOU
Image caption Sixty-one people were arrested during the raids

The warrants were carried out in London and the east of England by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU).

Officers from Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk were supported by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Metropolitan Police.

The operation was the "product of months of hard work", said Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Simon Parkes.

He said the success of such operations depended on local communities working with police to identify dealers and victims.

Image copyright ERSOU
Image caption About £20,000 in cash was seized by police

"County drugs lines have a significant impact on towns across the eastern region and drive a wide range of criminality," said Mr Parkes.

"We have targeted those controlling county lines due to the links with the exploitation of vulnerable people, the peddling of dangerous and illicit substances, and associated violence."

NCA statistics suggest there are more than 1,500 such lines in England and Wales, with the majority involving the exploitation of young people who are often sent long distances to deal drugs.

They can be subjected to violence and threats, said the NCA, while gangs may also base themselves in the homes of addicted or vulnerable people - a tactic known as "cuckooing".

Image copyright ERSOU
Image caption Police dogs were used to search for drugs and other items

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