Hampshire police arrest 48 people during week of action against ‘county lines’ drug dealers

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Weapons, cash and illegal drugs were seized during a Hampshire-wide week of action to tackle county lines and drug-related harm.

Officers made 48 arrests and say they ‘safeguarded’ 28 vulnerable people last week, as part of a national campaign against this model of drug dealing.

Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

It focused on disrupting and stopping criminal networks from other cities bringing illegal drugs into Hampshire and the Isle of Wight using dedicated mobile phones and exploiting vulnerable people.

These county line networks will often use and exploit young people and vulnerable adults to commit crime and will use fear, intimidation and violence against them or their families to get what that want.

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Warrants were executed in Portsmouth, Southampton, Basingstoke, Aldershot, Andover and the Isle of Wight.

They seized more than £17,455 in cash, 39 phones, six knives, as well as carrying out prevention work with schools, hotels and taxis firms.

Neighbourhood Policing Officers visited addresses to check they were not being exploited by drug dealers or their homes taken over by them to use as a base to deal, known as cuckooing.

Chief Insp Mark Lynch, who led the operation, said: ‘County Lines is a continuous threat to our communities, these drug dealers bring misery, fear and violence with them, they don’t care what damage they cause.

‘These organised crime groups use county lines as a business model to prey on the most vulnerable and what we tend to see is that where there is county lines there is often an increase in violent crime as rival networks come into conflict.

‘I’m very pleased with the significant results of how the operation went.

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‘As well as targeting those involved in county lines crime, Hampshire Constabulary also sees educating potential victims as an important preventative measure.’

Supt Matt Reeves, tactical lead for drug-related harm at Hampshire Constabulary, said: ‘We have taken action to disrupt and dismantle supply networks and alongside our partners we assisted those involved in the fringe of criminality due to their own vulnerability or dependence on drugs to find safety and help break the cycle. Much of our work isn’t overt, a lot involves safeguarding the most vulnerable in our society.

‘What is often overlooked when we talk about drug dealing networks is that there are genuine victims that get caught up in the county lines business. Hardened criminals who will deliberately target the most vulnerable and exploit them to carry out their illegal work. These are often young people and adults with mental health, addictions or unmanageable debt.’

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