Dozens of arrests and £800,000 of Class A drugs seized as police target County Lines drug dealing in Sunderland, South Shields and across the North East

A total of 28 people have been arrested, more than £800,000-worth of Class A drugs seized, and a number of ‘deal lines’ shut down after a Northumbria Police operation aimed at tackling cross-border ‘County Lines’ drug dealing.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 12:54 pm
Image released by Northumbria Police

Northumbria Police, Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) and other organisations across the country joined forces to tackle the ruthless practice known as County Lines as part of a ‘national intensification period’ which ran from Monday October 11 to October 17.

County Lines is a specific type of drug dealing which sees criminals send bulk text or social media messages to potential customers via a mobile phone so they can set up a deal.

Officers said the cruel practice often exploits and recruits vulnerable drug users.

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Image released by Northumbria Police from the operation.

Nationally, the activity saw 1,468 arrests, £1.3million in cash seized as well as 289 weapons.

And in the force area, a number of warrants were executed, including addresses in South Shields and Sunderland, while visits to schools to educate pupils and raise awareness of the practice also took place.

A total of 28 people were arrested – 22 men, three women and two males under 18 – during the week of action and £21,960 of suspected criminal cash seized alongside eight mobile phones and a double barrel shotgun.

Officers recovered more than 17kgs of cocaine with an estimated street value of £600,000, as well as £200,000 of MDMA and £10,000 of LSD as well as quantities of cannabis and Gabapentin.

Image released by Northumbria Police from the operation.

Detective Chief Inspector Sue Fryer, the force lead for County Lines praised the work of all officers who took part in the clampdown.

“This has been an incredible effort with teams from across the Force working together to share intelligence and take action to stop a brutal form of drug dealing which has no place here in Northumbria”, she said.

“What makes County Lines different to other forms of drug dealing is the aggression and the pushy methods used by criminals who are desperate to make money by selling highly addictive and illegal substances to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities – who then find themselves caught up in a cycle of debt, addiction and exploitation they can’t get out of.

“As part of Operation Sentinel, we will continue to tackle County Lines and organised crime and make sure that those involved are brought before the courts and held accountable for their actions.

Image released by Northumbria Police from the operation.

“We will also continue to work with our partners to make sure those who could be at risk of exploitation are equipped with the tools they need to identify what County Lines offending looks like, so they can report it, as well as working hard to safeguard anyone already affected by it.”

The week of action also saw a range of partnership work delivered by teams from the police’s Safeguarding Department, as well as continued diversionary work to steer young people away from crime through the Violence Reduction Unit.

Teams also carried out a range of work to help educate local authorities and our partners about the ways in which organised criminals can prey on vulnerable young people – from exploiting and grooming them into becoming mules and couriers, to taking over their accommodation in a practice known as cuckooing.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness said: “Operations like this are vital for safeguarding vulnerable people who are exploited by dealers.

"These dealers pray on the homeless, the vulnerable, people with alcohol and substance misuse issues and draw them in with the promise of a brilliant future”

She added: "They then become indebted to them, they're threatened and they’re dragged into this life of crime that can be difficult to leave.

“It’s a big concern for me but what this work shows is that Northumbria Police won’t stand for it and is working hard, along with others, to put up a strong fight against drug dealing in our region, and we’ve seen strong results to match.

“As well as the tough enforcement, where necessary, we also have to throw a great deal of effort into preventing those who are vulnerable from falling victim to this. Support, diversion activities, education and fighting poverty are all vital if we are going to bring about real change with this.”