Police Forces across the country shut down 172 County Lines during a week long national operation targeting drug dealing.
In Wiltshire, eight people were arrested, more than a £1,000 in cash recovered, £500 worth of drugs seized, and three County Lines disrupted as part of our continuing work to close down County Lines - part of a week of national disruption activity which ran from Monday 3 to Sunday 9 October.
Officers from Wiltshire Police's Fortitude Team were supported by officers and staff from Community Neighbourhood Teams and the Roads Policing Unit.
During the week, where police teams in the county carried out seven warrants on properties in Swindon, Chippenham and Salisbury, a total of eight arrests were made; six men and two juveniles aged between 16 and 52 years-old were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs.
Three were released on conditional bail, four were Released Under Investigation (RUI'd) and a 20-year-old man from Bristol was remanded in custody.
Also: • A total of £1200 in cash was seized • Two knives, a home-made spear and a machete were seized • Approximately 23 wraps of drugs (heroin and cocaine) • Assets seized included designer clothes and two vehicles.
We have also been looking at the link between County Lines drug gangs and their illegal practice of using people (primarily young people, often students) as Money Mules.
There is a lot of evidence which points to criminal gangs being able to launder money through victim’s bank accounts.
Det Insp Sarah Champion, who led the operation, said: “Working with colleagues from other areas of policing as well as partners is a good example of successful collaboration where we are all committed to tackling County Lines and those criminals involved, as well as protecting those at risk of being exploited by unscrupulous these gangs.
Helping our communities
“We know that the public have real concerns about the impact of County Lines in our towns, in our communities; however, I hope people are reassured by our ongoing efforts and the hard work by officers and staff across the Force in tackling this type of organised criminality.
“Not only are these criminals selling drugs to vulnerable drug users, creating a cycle of misery and knock-on criminality, but this directly impacts our communities.
“Our work will always continue against the distribution of drugs in our county. However, we can’t be everywhere and we need the public’s help to report any suspicious activity in their neighbourhood. I would urge anyone who suspects drug gangs operating in their area to contact us.”
In relation to Money Mules, Lou Martin, Financial Investigations Manager said: “Becoming a money mule is easy to do, often people are enticed by the offer of earning easy and quick cash. Don’t be fooled though. Once you become a money mule, it can be hard to stop.
“Criminals may ask you to receive money into your bank account and transfer it into another account, keeping some of the cash for yourself. If you let this happen, you’re a money mule, you’re involved in money laundering, and could go to prison for up to 14 years.”
PCC Phil Wilkinson said: “Communities are destroyed by drug-related crime and anti-social behaviour, not to mention the impact this has on vulnerable people who end up being used by criminal gangs – the knock-on effects of drug dealers in communities can make life unbearable.
Tireless work by officers
“Listening to residents’ concerns was key in the strategic focus given in my police and crime plan. Wiltshire Police will continue to disrupt drug supplies, robustly deal with criminals and rid our streets of drugs. My thanks to those officers who have worked on this intensification operation tirelessly to drive down drug-related crime and anti-social behaviour in their areas.
“As ever, the key to the success of this work, and the targeting of ongoing police operations, is the intelligence gathered and given to us by our communities. Wiltshire Police need to know where this criminality is happening and they will take action."
If you suspect a crime or believe someone is being exploited, call us on 101, report it online via the Wiltshire Police website or phone 999 in an emergency. You can also report anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Signs that a young person may be being exploited and involved in County Lines include:
Increased mobile phone activity
Change in mood
New expensive possessions they cannot account for
Missing from home
Increase in anti-social behaviour
Decline in school grade.
Tell-tale signs that someone might be involved in money muling:
Suddenly they have extra cash
Buying expensive new clothes or top-of-the-range mobile phones and gadgets with very little explanation as to how they got the money
They may also become more secretive, withdrawn or appear stressed.