Targeting organised crime groups who exploit children, vulnerable adults and destroy local communities continues to be one of our top priorities, says Cheshire Police’s head of crime.
In the last 12 months the force has undertaken numerous operations in a bid to disrupt criminals who run drug networks known as ‘county lines’.
It has also adopted an approach that sees specialist officers identifying and engaging with individuals who are targeted by organised crime groups.
Detective Chief Superintendent Gareth Lee said: “The specific aim is to make Cheshire a really hostile place for those involved in serious and organised crime.
“We know this is a huge challenge but we have dedicated officers across the force who are relentless in pursuing individuals resident in Cheshire and who travel into Cheshire to commit this activity. The message is definitely getting out there.
“The activity speaks for itself. In the last year we have conducted numerous operations that led to warrants executed, arrests made, organised crime groups put in jail as well as the seizure of class A and B drugs, cash, drug paraphernalia and high value designer items.
“In June last year we arrested 18 people who were involved in flooding Ellesmere Port with drugs.
“We had officers patrolling all over the town as we knew the next county lines team would be waiting and ready to fill the void. The talk of the town was ‘don’t go there, police are everywhere’ and that is exactly what we want these criminals to be thinking.
“However it isn’t only about pursuing these criminals. We know there is a really big problem with vulnerability and exploitation that comes with the county lines model.
“Therefore a big focus for the force is identifying and engaging with vulnerable adults who are targeted and educating young children who are coerced into this underworld by criminals.
“We have numerous departments with officers and staff using their skills, knowledge and expertise to focus on all aspects of this crime to really make a difference in our communities.
“The ultimate aim is to make our community safer.”
Since December 2020 officers have carried out 96 disruptions against county lines teams. This includes vehicle stops and seizures, arrests, stop searches, warrants and civil orders.
At the beginning of the year six people who were part of an organised crime group in Chester were arrested following reports of them operating in the city.
In February officers acted quickly after a new team began dealing in Macclesfield. Three men were arrested and a vehicle seized resulting in the crime group not returning to the town.
Last month a closure order was obtained for a property in Runcorn that was believed to be used for drug dealing.
In August 2020 the force set up an initiative called operation expel which aims to identify and engage with vulnerable adults whose homes are taken over by organised crime groups. Their homes are used as a drugs den – a term known as cuckooing.
Officers across the county conduct regular patrols around the addresses that are identified to prevent and deter this criminality and anti-social behaviour.
They work closely with partners to provide support to those who are vulnerable with 102 referrals having been made to safeguard individuals so far.
Detective Chief Supt Lee added: “A lot of our work comes from information and intelligence from the local community.
“One small piece of information can lead to detectives facilitating operations that bring down an entire organised crime group. The operations can be lengthy but the results and positive impact it has on the community are worth it.
“We need the public to keep supporting us by continuing to report information as well as familiarising and understanding the signs to look out for that could disrupt this criminality but also prevent and protect a child or vulnerable adult from being targeted.
“The police, public and local authorities are already making Cheshire a much safer place to live and work and we will continue to do that.”
John Dwyer, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, added: “Serious and organised crime can blight our communities with county lines drug activity targeting those who are most vulnerable.
“Cheshire Police’s work over recent years has made Cheshire a very difficult place for organised crime groups to operate.
“I would like to see the force continue this good work and I will be highlighting the need to tackle these types of offences in my new Police and Crime Plan in order to make our communities safer.
“I am also committed to funding crime prevention activities to prevent vulnerable young people and adults engaging in county lines activity.”
If you have information relating to serious and organised crime taking place in your community please contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or Cheshire Police by calling 101.
For more information about serious and organised crime please visit the Cheshire Police website.