Officers from Merseyside and Cheshire Police joined forces on Friday (21st August) to tackle County Lines* drug dealing and child criminal exploitation (CCE).
Organised by Merseyside Police, with support from Cheshire and British Transport Police (BTP), the latest ‘Operation Medusa’ focused on specific areas in Liverpool and Halton.
Officers first executed four warrants at addresses on Roscommon Street, Everton, Anfield Rd, Anfield and Wheatlands and Littlegate, both in Halton Brook.
Next, officers deployed to the railway networks in Runcorn and Widnes, due to both towns being frequently targeted by gangs because of their direct links to Liverpool.
Patrols were situated at train stations in Runcorn and Widnes as well as Liverpool Lime Street Station and Liverpool South Parkway Station. Here, officers were able to utilise a number of police tactics to spot people acting suspiciously and take action where necessary.
As a result, 32 people were stopped and spoken to at both Liverpool stations and a 28 year old man was arrested for possession of a controlled drug after he was searched in Lime Street and found carrying cannabis. Checks also revealed he was wanted for failing to appear in court, again for drugs offences.
On the roads, a significant number of other officers spent the day monitoring routes in and out of Liverpool and Halton, stopping cars and speaking to motorists suspected of being involved in the supply of illegal drugs and exploitation of young people.
Officers stopped a grey BMW coming from Cheshire into Merseyside on the A5300. Here, they found a large amount (around 1kg) of suspected Class A drugs under the front passenger seat. Both men, aged 21 and 23 from Wirral were arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs.
In addition, a 37 year old man was arrested after being stopped on Edge Lane Drive where he tested positive for drug driving and was arrested for possession of cannabis and for driving offences including having no licence and no insurance.
Also assisting in the day of action were our four legged colleagues, who are specially trained in sniffing out passengers and motorists who may be carrying illegal substances.
Across the border in Cheshire, a 20 year old man, 36 year old man, 45 year old woman and 46 year old man were all arrested for possession with intent to supply Class A drugs following three separate stop searches in the Runcorn and Widness areas. A further three men, aged 18, 21 and24 were then arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of drugs.
A 23 year old man was also arrested on suspicion drug driving and and possession of an air weapon in a public place after he was stopped in Runcorn.
Merseyside Police’s Inspector Katie Wilkinson said: “The operation on Friday forms a key part of our continued operational activity to put a stop to young people being exploited at the hands of criminal gangs.
“This lifestyle shouldn’t be glamourised and can lead to serious consequences. Organised gangs are exploiting children and vulnerable adults to move and supply drugs on they behalf. By working with our colleagues across the border, we’ll continue to showcase the extensive efforts we go in order to protect the public and arrest offenders.
“Help us safeguard young people living in Merseyside and Cheshire by reporting information to us – whether you know someone involved in crime, are worried about someone at risk or simply have information that could help with our continued investigations, we want to know about it.
“Message us on social media @MerPolCC or contact @CrimestoppersUK anonymously – together we can take dangerous substances off our streets.”
Superintendent Laura Marler, who oversees policing in Runcorn and Widnes for Cheshire Constabulary, said: “Criminals don’t simply stop when they reach boarders. In fact, organised crime groups based in major cities are always looking to extend their criminal activities into other locations, using mobile phones to let drug users know when and where they can buy illegal drugs from them locally.
“Friday’s operation was part of our ongoing commitment to disrupt criminal activity and make Runcorn and Widnes safer places to live, work and visit.
“However, it wasn’t just about catching criminals and seizing drugs. One of the main aims was to help identify and safeguard children and vulnerable people who are being controlled, coerced and manipulated into dealing drugs on behalf of organised crime gangs.
“By doing so we can offer them the support that they require and help set them on the right path for a better life.
“The operation also helped us to gather further information on how the transport network is being used by county lines criminals.”
Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams, Taskforce lead at British Transport Police, said: “British Transport Police has a unique approach to county lines. We are the only force that operates nationally, targeting gangs who use stations and trains across England, Scotland and Wales to transport drugs.
“This joint operation, and the many others like it, are designed to target these criminal gangs at every stage of their county lines activity, from the cities they operate from to the rail routes they use to transport drugs and the smaller towns and villages where they sell.
“The activities of these gangs breed violence and go hand-in-hand with child exploitation.
“Our experience has proven that gangs who use the railway network rely on younger people to move drugs. These individuals are victims, forced through exploitation or intimidation into desperate situations, and it’s always our priority to make support available that can get them out of harm and away from crime.” #OpTarget
*County Lines drug dealing involves organised crime groups based in major cities or urban areas extending their criminal enterprise into more rural locations. They often recruit and coerce young children and vulnerable adults to sell illegal drugs on their behalf.
*Warrant arrest in Merseyside: A 42 year old woman and a 46 year old man were arrested during the Anfield Road warrant on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of a class A drug. Please refer to Cheshire Police for their arrest update. Please contact Cheshire Police for their area warrant results.