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Disrupting County Lines, disturbing organised crime groups, cuckooing checks on vulnerable people and providing educational material to schools was just some of the activity conducted by Sussex Police and partners during County Lines Intensification Week.
Forces across the country joined a national County Lines Intensification Week from Monday, February 27, to Sunday, March 5, focusing on disrupting drug dealing lines, catching perpetrators and protecting people at risk of exploitation.
County lines drug dealing is when criminals from large urban areas deal drugs in smaller areas across county borders. Drug users contact them through phone numbers – known as deal lines.
The practice is typified by violence and the exploitation of vulnerable people and children, who are often coerced into dealing drugs on behalf of gangs.
Sussex Police works tirelessly all year round to combat County Lines, but this week of action serves to shine a spotlight on the issues facing communities across the county.
Here are some highlights from the week of activity and some of the activity which took place across the divisions.
There was one warrant conducted in East Sussex which resulted in five arrests. A total of 117 wraps of crack cocaine, heroin and cannabis were seized in addition to three phones and £240. Cuckooing checks were undertaken at 14 addresses leading to four adults being safeguarded, some of the checks were attended by staff from adult social care and substance misuse services.
The exploitation team worked in partnership with Neighbourhood Policing Teams and Crimestoppers to organise an advertising van in Bexhill, Sidley and Hastings. Members of Sussex Police and Crimestoppers spoke with members of the public and students about spotting the signs of exploitation and county lines.
Seven warrants were carried out in West Sussex along with four stop-checks which resulted in one man and one woman being arrested. Some of the drugs seized included five wraps of heroin and crack cocaine, nearly 300g of cannabis, 14 phones and two weapons plus £370. There were 13 cuckooing checks, nine safeguarding referrals and 11 sessions in schools to more than 2,100 pupils. The Crimestoppers van also visited various location in Crawley supported by members of Sussex Police.
Brighton and Hove
In Brighton and Hove 24 stop checks were made on people and vehicles resulting in 13 arrests, more than 250 wraps of crack cocaine and heroin in addition to more than 30-grams of cannabis being seized. Officers also seized three weapons and around £15,000. The force arrested 20 people while safeguarding referrals were made for two women, two men and two children. Cuckooing checks were also undertaken at nearly 30 properties in the city. The Crimestoppers van also rolled into Brighton visiting various locations in the city while officers engaged with more than 2,000 students at four different schools.
Force lead for criminal exploitation Detective Superintendent Stuart Hale said: “County Lines Intensification Week is a brilliant opportunity for the public to see some of the ways we are disrupting the supply of drugs into our county.
“Rest assured, this activity happens all year round. Our officers are continually conducting warrants, doing cuckoo checks and providing educational material to schools.
“When we say ‘county lines’ many people think of the drug suppliers, but the vulnerable people who get caught up in this are sometimes overlooked. It is imperative that we safeguard those vulnerable people who fall victim to drug dealers – young and old, coerced into dealing drugs or surrendering their homes as bases for illegal activity.”
Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “County Lines drug dealing is a destructive crime and the impact expands far beyond just those who are directly involved. It affects those young people groomed into gangs, their families, those buying drugs, as well as the safety of our county’s road networks and the wider community.
“This intensification week has once again been a success and highlights the good work of not only Sussex’s specialist units but of officers and partners as they continue to detect and disrupt criminals travelling into and around Sussex.
“The week also presents an opportunity for parents, carers and professionals to be educated about spotting the signs of exploitation and coercion as well as the catalysts that start a dangerous chain of events for young people making life-changing decisions.”