BIG city drug dealers will get no rest in Warwickshire warn police chiefs.
So-called ‘county lines’ sees dealers from cities move into towns, where their faces are not be known to local police, to pedal drugs.
The well-organised city gangs identify drug users or other vulnerable people in their target towns and send ‘runners’ to take over their homes – known as cuckooing – to enable them to deal at street level.
Those whose homes are taken over are often lured with the promise of drugs, and used to help expand the dealing network by passing on the dealing phone number to other users.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) has found growing evidence of the practice across Britain and Leamington, Stratford and Rugby have all been targeted by county lines gangs.
Ch Insp Faz Chishty of Warwickshire Police said the emergence of ‘county lines’ gangs from the likes of Birmingham and Wolverhampton was something the force had focused on targeting, including raiding properties in Warwickshire.
They have resulted in dozens of arrests, the seizure of thousands of pounds in cash, and large quantities of drugs, including cocaine and heroin, and the recovery of an array of weapons, from machetes to a Samurai sword.
But despite the operations the threat from ‘county lines’ remains in Warwickshire and police say they will not let up the fight against them.
Ch Insp Chishty told The Observer: “While we have had a lot of success in making arrests and disrupting networks, the sad thing in this territory is that you disrupt one network then somebody else emerges – it’s a constant battle but that does not deter efforts – we will keep going.
“My message is clear. We will focus on those people determined to cause harm in our communities through the sale and exploitation of vulnerable people and will take measures to identify those people responsible and take positive action.”
According to the NCA those targeted for their homes by gangs are mainly class A drug addicts, but also include the elderly, people with mental or physical health issues, women prostitutes and single mothers.
Insp Chishty revealed Warwickshire Police was working to identify those susceptible to help stop them becoming victims of the gangs.
He added: “We receive intelligence an individual might be a next victim, and we will pay them a visit and ask them if they are OK or if they’re scared.
“The reactions vary, some are receptive and others aren’t but our perseverance and determination doesn’t wane.
“Something that’s key is that we try and engender people to get help whether it be for drugs misuse, re-housing or wellbeing.”
“We can’t force them but we can work with them and give them the right signposting and build their trust and confidence in us.”
“As for those individuals who are harming our communities, we are determined to use the full strength of the law to try and disrupt and deter this behaviour in Warwickshire.”