British Transport Police (BTP) dismantled two county lines and arrested 75 people during a national week of action tackling drug supply.
As part of the enhanced activity, several arrests made in Sussex led to a branded county line being seized. Analysis of the phone’s messaging data found it was being used by organised criminals to supply nearly 100 people with harmful Class A drugs.
Officers investigating the branded line used it to send messages to the recipient list signposting them to safeguarding and drug addiction support services.
In total, 90 operations were conducted from 3–9 October, half of which were joint with local police forces. Officers deployed at stations and on services on the UK railway and made 64 drug seizures, removed 26 weapons from the railway and safeguarded seven children.
The week was coordinated by BTP’s dedicated County Lines Taskforce and operations comprised uniformed and plain clothes officers, passive drugs dogs and metal detection arches.
Experts in child exploitation seconded into the Taskforce from the third sector worked shoulder to shoulder with officers throughout the week to prioritise safeguarding of individuals exploited by county lines gangs.
In tandem with the week of action BTP promoted the Look Closer awareness campaign which has been developed in partnership with The Children’s Society.
The campaign aims to educate railway workers and passengers on the tell-tale signs of child exploitation, and report any concerns to the police.
Chief Inspector Rachel Griffiths, of BTP’s County Lines Taskforce, said: “These results showcase the success of our teams in shutting down county lines and safeguarding vulnerable individuals, however it is important to note this is very much business as usual for us at BTP.
“Our teams are on the network in England, Scotland and Wales every day intercepting drugs and targeting those at the top of the supply chain, making arrests and putting offenders before the courts.
“I am proud of the fact we prioritise the safeguarding of children coerced by these offenders to run drugs using the railway. We’re as determined as ever to identify these children and ensure they get the support they need to pull them out of the clutches of toxic gangs.
“The public and rail staff continue to be our eyes and ears on the railway and can play a vital role in tackling county lines activity. If you spot the signs of child exploitation or drug supply on the rail network, I urge you to report it to us by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40.”
James Simmonds-Read, National Programme Manager at The Children’s Society’s Prevention programme, which runs Look Closer, said: “Predators groom children in person and online, then use terrifying threats and violence to force them into crimes such as carrying drugs or for sexual or labour exploitation.
“Young people may be too scared to tell someone what is happening or may have been manipulated into thinking they are making a choice.
“We are working with police through Look Closer to ensure that when concerns are reported to them, children are identified as victims and offered support, alongside crucial efforts to bring the offenders exploiting them to justice.
“By reporting things that don’t feel right, either in the community or online, you may be helping a child to escape a situation of horrific abuse.”