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Children safeguarded and harmful drugs seized in week of enhanced action to tackle County Lines

Vital interventions were made to safeguard vulnerable people and large quantities of drugs were seized on the rail network as British Transport Police (BTP) took part in a national week of enhanced action to disrupt County Lines activity.

Coordinated by the force’s dedicated County Lines Taskforce, the week (11–17 October) saw officers work with regional police forces on operations at key stations and train routes across the UK.

These included a mix of plain-clothed and uniformed officers alongside drugs dogs and metal detection arches, to remove harmful drugs and dangerous weapons from the railway and communities.

Across the seven-day period BTP conducted 88 operations, half of which were joint with regional police forces.

In total 41 people were arrested, and officers seized 52 different amounts of drugs, £50k in cash, 43 phones and removed 32 dangerous weapons from the railway.

They also safeguarded 14 vulnerable children and adults, visited a cuckooed address and seized one ‘deal line’ – a mobile phone linked to selling drugs.

Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams, BTP’s County Lines Taskforce lead, said: “These results are testament to the dedicated work of my team in partnership with our police colleagues and reminds criminals that the railway is not a viable option to move drugs, or indeed exploited persons, between locations.

“Drugs they distribute into communities ruin lives and we are continually developing and sharing our intelligence picture, to vary our tactics and dismantle their criminal operations.

“This coordinated week provided us with the opportunity to shine a light on our proactive operational work and also highlight the ‘Look Closer’ campaign, which we developed alongside The Children’s Society.

“It aims to raise awareness of child exploitation and encourages rail staff and the public to spot the signs that a person is being exploited and to always report their concerns to us.

“If you spot the signs of someone being exploited on the railway, text us on 61016. No report is too small or trivial – we will always take you seriously.”

James Simmonds-Read, National Programme Manager at The Children’s Society’s Prevention programme, said: “Predators groom children with offers of cash, gifts, drugs and alcohol, friendship and status – then use terrifying threats and violence to exploit them to carry drugs in ‘county lines’ operations or for sexual or labour exploitation.

“Young people may not ask for help because they have been manipulated into thinking they are making a choice or because they are too scared to speak out. We must not hold children responsible for preventing their own exploitation but should instead work together as a society to prevent it from happening to them.”

BTP’s County Lines Taskforce – a police team dedicated to tackling organised criminals using the railway to transport drugs – was setup with Home Office funding in December 2019.

A key aim of the team is to identify and safeguard vulnerable children and adults often exploited by these criminals to transport drugs and cash between import and export locations.

To date, the Taskforce has made more than 1,500 arrests, seized nearly 1,000 lots of drugs, made 85 referrals to the National Referral Mechanism for Safeguarding and secured 18 charges under the Modern Slavery Act.

Earlier this month three people appeared at court charged in connection to offences under the Modern Slavery Act and drugs supply after a 16-year-old boy was found in possession of Class A drugs on the railway.

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