AN OPERATION targeting drug crime in Warwickshire has seen 18 people arrested and more than £16,000 worth of drugs seized.
The raids targeted county lines crime where dealers from cities move into rural areas to peddle drugs.
The highly-organised city gangs identify drug users or other vulnerable people in their target towns and send ‘runners’ to take over their homes – often children as young as 14 – to enable them to deal at street level.
It is a nationwide problem with gangs operating from cities including nearby Birmingham.
Police swooped on properties in Rugby, Leamington, Warwick and Stratford, arresting ten people and seizing drugs – some believed to be heroin and crack cocaine.
They also seized more than £12,000 in cash, a kitchen knife and several phones.
A further eight people were arrested in the north of the county.
Officers also visited more than 130 vulnerable people in the county to check they were not being exploited by drug dealers and to raise awareness of the signs of exploitation.
Det Supt Neil Harrison described the week as a ‘snapshot’ of the ongoing battle against county lines.
He said: “Organised crime groups use a county lines ‘business model’ to target the most vulnerable. They take over their premises to deal drugs from and they use young people to do their dirty work for them.
“Where there is county lines crime there is also an increase in violent crime as rival gangs come into conflict.
“By highlighting the good work I hope it gives local people confidence in our commitment to tackling an issue that blights so many lives and communities.
“I also hope it sends a strong message to drug dealers that we will continue to pursue you relentlessly.
“While the high profile warrants and arrests will no doubt grab the headlines, the engagement with vulnerable people was equally as important. The engagement ensures we offer support to help prevent them being exploited and allows us to build a better intelligence picture and generally make Warwickshire more hostile for county lines criminals.”
He added many successes were a result of information provided by the public and urged those with concerns or suspicions around the supply of drugs to report them.
Anyone with information should call police on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.