Several people were arrested during a week of action to tackle county lines drug dealing in Cheshire.
Operation Expel saw officers across the county step up their already considerable efforts to bring county lines drug dealers to justice and protect vulnerable people from being exploited.
Running from Monday 8 February to Friday 12 February, the bulk of the proactive activities took place in Halton.
Detective Inspector Eleanor Atkinson, who oversaw the operation at Cheshire Constabulary, said: “County lines drug dealing involves organised crime groups based in major cities or urban areas extending their criminal enterprises into more rural locations.
“They often recruit and coerce children and vulnerable adults to sell illegal drugs for them.
“The actions of these organised crime groups and the drugs that they supply causes untold damage to the direct victims, as well as to the wider communities who suffer from the resulting crime.
“The week of action, which saw numerous warrants executed, class A drugs seized, several people arrested and vulnerable children and adults safeguarded, was part of our ongoing commitment to tackling county lines drug dealing in Cheshire head on, utilising all the resources at our disposal.”
The highlights of the operation included:
- A quantity of heroin was seized by officers who executed a warrant at an address in Alton Street in Crewe and three people – a 47-year-old man from Crewe, a 36-year-old woman from Crewe and a 35-year-old woman from Nantwich – were arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply the class A drug
- Quantities of heroin and crack cocaine were seized during a raid at an address in Gorran Haven, Brookvale, Runcorn, and two people – a 48-year-old woman from Runcorn and a 23-year-old man from Liverpool – were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of the class A drugs
- Information supplied about drug dealing in Crewe led to a 17-year-old boy from Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent, being arrested in Hanley in Stoke-on-Trent and being charged with being concerned in the supply of heroin, possession of criminal property and possession of class B drug cannabis
- A 27-year-old man from Widnes was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class A drug cocaine and class B drug cannabis following a stop and search on Kendal Road in the town and subsequent searches of properties linked to him
- A 40-year-old man from Widnes was arrested in the Kendal Road area of the town on suspicion of possession with intent to supply heroin and crack cocaine
- A three-month closure order was imposed on a house in Bower Street, Widnes, in response to persistent anti-social behaviour and reports of drug dealing and violence at the address.
PC Ian Harrison, left, and PCSO Stephen Marnick outside the house in Bower Street, Widnes, that has been closed for three months
DI Atkinson added: “We are pleased with how the week of action went.
“The warrants we executed, the illegal drugs we seized and the arrests we made will have significantly disrupted criminal activity.
“However, it wasn’t just about catching criminals and stepping up our efforts to bring them to justice via the courts.
“A big part of the week of action was about identifying and safeguarding vulnerable children and adults who are controlled, coerced and manipulated into dealing drugs on behalf of others, and subsequently offering them the support that they require to get away from criminal activity and lead a better life.
“There was also a focus on educating people, particularly children and vulnerable adults, about the dangers of county lines drug dealers so that they have the information they need to avoid becoming victims.
“We worked with partner agencies for much of this work.
“People who have previously had their homes taken over by drug dealers through the use of violence and threats, in an activity known as cuckooing, were visited for welfare checks, as were other vulnerable addresses.
“Leaflets and letters about county lines drug dealing were distributed.
“We also made arrangements for schools and taxi companies to educate their pupils and drivers respectively about the dangers and signs of county lines drug dealing, and gave them suitable literature on the subject.
“Members of the Chester Local Policing Unit (LPU) visited the Blacon Adventure Playground and arranged to give county lines information training to everyone who works with young people at the community hub.
“However, the majority of the work during the week of action was done in Halton (Runcorn and Widnes).
“The Halton Complex Team visited several young people who are believed to be involved in county lines drug operations, or heading that way. The team spoke to them and their parents about the dangers involved and detailed the help and support that is available.
“The Runcorn and Widnes LPUs worked with housing associations and a drugs and alcohol support agency to give vulnerable people help, support and advice. Joint visits were conducted at the homes of people who have been identified as being at risk of cuckooing, to educate and safeguard them.
“In Runcorn, as well as visiting taxi companies, officers drafted letters and leaflets to local leasing companies to make them aware of the indicators of county lines drug dealing and cuckooing.
“In Widnes a survey was conducted at a housing estate to better understand community issues and develop intel, and a fireproof letterbox was fitted at an address due to safety concerns.”
David Keane, police and crime commissioner for Cheshire, added: “I would like to thank all the officers and the partner agencies involved in this operation.
“As police and crime commissioner for Cheshire, I know that officers work tirelessly in their fight against county lines drug dealers and those who exploit and manipulate vulnerable adults and children to aid their criminal enterprises.
“The week of action is a great example of how the police and partner agencies can work together to tackle serious and organised crime, which has no place in our communities, and identify and safeguard vulnerable children and adults to stop them from being exploited.”
DI Atkinson added: “Our aim is to drive county lines drug dealing out of Cheshire and we will continue to work with partner agencies to do everything in our power to protect residents from organised crime groups.
“However, we also need support from the public.
“We need residents to be our eyes and ears by looking out for, and reporting, suspicious behaviour and signs of children and vulnerable adults being taken advantage of by organised criminals.
“If you have any information that may help us to build more intelligence regarding county lines drug dealing, bring offenders to justice and keep vulnerable members of our communities safe then please get in touch.”
For details of how to spot the signs of county lines drug dealing and cuckooing, visit https://www.cheshire.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/cl/county-lines.
Any information regarding drug dealing in your community, no matter how small, should be reported to Cheshire Constabulary on 101, or via https://www.cheshire.police.uk/ro/report. Alternatively, you can contact independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
From left, PCSOs Tony Icke and Joanne Pendrey, Rage Fitness CEO Craig Brown, Blacon Adventure Playground Manager Sandra Hewitt and Youth Leader Lisa Pritchard during the playground visit