Police urge vigilance over county lines drug dealing


Police are urging people to look out for the signs of county lines drug dealing amid a renewed crackdown on the illegal activity.

County lines is a term used to gangs transporting drugs from bigger cities into smaller towns, such as Stratford.

Warwickshire Police recently launched its Protect initiative which aims to tackle and disrupt county lines crime and other forms of serious organised crime.

The force has a number of proactive operations running aimed at disrupting county lines drug dealing and bringing offenders to justice.

Last month five Warwickshire men, including one from Hampton Magna, were jailed for more than 20 years combined, for their role in a county lines operation.

Signs that people may have become involved include children or young people going missing from home or school, changes to a person’s behaviour or emotional wellbeing, children or young people socialising with unfamiliar people and a person starting to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Other signs include a person acquiring money they can’t account for, having multiple phones, tablets or SIM cars and lone children visiting from outside the area.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil Reader said: “We are getting very good at disrupting county lines gangs operating in Warwickshire and bringing the key players to justice.

“However, we also need the people’s help; the public are our eyes and ears in the community and it is important they are looking out for the signs of county lines drug dealing and report it to the police.

“County lines criminals tend to target youngsters and vulnerable people, getting them to deal drugs. This is why we are asking people to look out for the signs. On their own, each of these signs may not be suspicious but put them together with changes in behaviour it could be a sign of county lines drug dealing.

“If you have any suspicions please call the police. Your piece of information, no matter how small, might be the final piece of the jigsaw that means we can take action.”

If you have any information that could help police tackle county lines drug crime please call 101. Alternatively, information can be provided anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Last month, Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi hit the national headlines after saying that young county lines drug mules should be helped rather than locked up.

He argued that too many youngsters in care were getting caught up in the crime after being coerced to take part by drugs gangs.

Mr Zahawi said: “Children in care have often experienced traumatic events and faced tremendous challenges through no fault of their own. We know they often do not achieve the same positive outcomes as their peers and, while the vast majority do not get into trouble with the law, contact with the criminal justice system can make it cause their lives to unravel and make it even harder for them to succeed.

“We want high aspirations for our children in care and care leavers, just as we do for all children and young people – I do not want to see them overrepresented in the criminal justice system which is too often the sad reality.

“To break this cycle of adversity I am calling on agencies across the system – police, courts, social work and schools – to work together to reduce the number of these children who get involved in crime and have contact with police, helping them have a greater chance of flourishing and fulfilling their potential.”