Operation Stabilise targeted the suspected networks – where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs – across Lincolnshire, Lancashire, and Nottinghamshire. The ‘County Line’ is the mobile phone line used to take the orders of drugs.
The ten-month investigation, led by Lincolnshire Police and including officers from Lancashire Police, Nottinghamshire Police, and the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU), culminated with 38 search warrants executed over a month of enforcement.
The operation included officers and police staff ranging from PCs, intelligence officers and detectives, to armed response officers, and forensics units, and saw 10 separate drug conspiracy investigations conducted.
More than £300,000 in assets were seized, including designer watches, clothing, electrical goods and cars, as well as more than £55,000 in cash, an estimated £53,000 of Class A crack and heroin, £12,000 of cannabis, and a variety or weapons including knives, a shotgun and two hand guns.
Reflecting on the wider problem of County Lines and drug use, Chief Inspector Phil Baker said young people could become enticed by a promised lifestyle.
“The sale and use of drugs blights entire neighbourhoods, and feeds into the much darker world of County Lines which entices young people into a life of crime through selling a lifestyle before loyalty is tested,” he said.
“This is often done by asking for favours and offering a sense of protection, which can then lead to those exploited being trapped through debt bondage, trafficking, isolation from family and friends and physical, psychological and sexual abuse.
“As well as exploiting vulnerable people, County Lines activity also feeds addiction at a local level, and the drug use itself is just the tip of the iceberg; with it comes a bevvy of associated crime such as theft, antisocial behaviour, or violent offences.
“The leaders of organised crime gangs live lavish lifestyles, spending thousands on designer clothes, watches or gadgets, while the people they exploit to traffic drugs or those using them are often living lives so far removed from luxury. In short, drugs damage our communities and lives, and we will not tolerate County Lines networks in our area.
“As a Force we have a unique partnership approach to dealing with local-level drug use, working with the local health services, addiction charities, homeless services, and local authorities to help people escape a life of addiction. Disrupting the efforts of dealers selling in our towns and cities goes a long way to breaking that chain and providing those with addiction a chance to improve their lives.”
All of the offenders charged are due to appear at Lincoln Crown Court later this month and early August.