Police across Sussex have been keeping up pressure on 'County Lines' and other drug dealers.
During 2020 Sussex Police recorded 236 disruptions against such 'lines' into the county, mainly from London, an increase of 171% in disruptions over the previous year. Over the past 12 months alone 29 such lines have been disrupted.
And in October this work was intensified as part of a continuing national effort.
See main photo showing cash seized during a drugs-related arrest in Brighton.
Detective Chief Inspector Will Rolls said; "County Line drug dealing continues to be a threat with currently 30 county lines active across Sussex. The force's primary concern remains the exploitation and trafficking of vulnerable adults and children.
The week of intensified activity focused on disrupting the activities of those involved in County Lines by safeguarding and protecting vulnerable people, pursuing offenders, reducing the number of lines, and seizing proceeds of crime.
Activity during the week of 11-17 October took place across the force area and included:
- Proactive targeting of drug related activity, resulting in the execution of 15 warrants, 31 arrests, seizure of drugs with an estimated street value of more than £9000, and more than £7,000 cash. - 57 enhanced 'cuckoo' checks at addresses, resulting in identification of and support for people vulnerable to predatory drug dealers. - Educational visits and discussions with hotels and B&B's and with 83 taxi drivers in Brighton, to talk about how to spot exploitation and report it. - Awareness sessions at six schools.
In Brighton and Hove there were 20 arrests linked to enforcement activities throughout the week, that included working with BTP at Brighton Railway Station deploying the electronic knife detection arch, local officers working with the force's Specialist Enforcement Unit use of automatic number plate recognition, and surveillance of suspects in the city.
Arrests were made for Class A drugs supply offences, possession of offensive weapons including a lock knife and a samuari-style sword, and money laundering.
Class A drugs and cannabis with an estimated street value of some £6,500 were seized along with £4250 cash and 35 mobile phones were seized from suspects
See this photo of samurai-style sword seized during a drugs-related arrest in a Brighton street.
In East Sussex, activity included execution of four warrants, with five arrests, and the seizure of £2000 of cocaine at address in Bexhill.
In West Sussex, five warrants were executed. Officers from the West Sussex Community Investigation Team (CIT) executed one of them with the assistance of the Metropolitan Police at an address in Thornton Heath, South London. Three people were arrested and charged with conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine, and money laundering.
See these photos from the operation.
A cash counting machine seized at the address in Thornton Heath.
Class A drugs seized curing a follow-up search at an address in Worthing.
Also in West Sussex, more than 250 students were engaged in a series of training inputs and discussions by police Neighbourhood Youth Officers at Secondary Schools and Colleges.
During the past year co-ordinated police activity has increased, with a Surrey and Sussex Police intelligence team known as Operation Centurion, which works with London's Metropolitan Police to better target and prosecute offenders of county lines activity between the capital, Surrey and Sussex. In the six months since the team’s inception, they have contributed to more than 50 lines being disrupted, and to charges of over 60 individuals across both counties.
The work of Centurion's specialist teams includes analysis from mobile phones used by dealers to buy and sell class-A drugs. This information is critical to investigators, helping them target the most significant members of organised crime groups and ensuring longer term disruption.
Will Rolls said; "Even during the recent lockdowns we continued every day to disrupt dealers who try to deal dangerous drugs across our communities and we target those who use children to sell drugs or those who buy drugs from children. We investigate and prosecute, working relentlessly and targeting those who would bring harm to local people, including often the most vulnerable.
Will Rolls adds; "Local crime is often a direct result of major drug distribution via county lines and by working together with partners to shed a light on this often hidden crime. We are sending a clear message to drug dealers that they cannot expect to go undetected in Sussex."
The County Lines response isn’t just a policing one. Effective collaboration between law enforcement and safeguarding organisations and also the private sector industries is a vital part of both the national and local response.
Will Rolls said; "We also work closely with other agencies to support those vulnerable adults and children who are exploited by county line gangs. This includes regular visits to those adults at risk of cuckooing and raising awareness with those agencies engaged with children to ensure that information is shared effectively to prevent young people being drawn in to this criminality."
Members of the public can also help, the best advice is to trust your instincts – if somebody shows signs of mistreatment, or a child seems to be travelling long distances or is unfamiliar with a locality, you can report suspicions to local police on 101 or online or to British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40 if you see something on the railway network.
There are also many sources of further advice and assistance to help combat the harm caused by drugs. Safe Space Sussex takes you to all the local organisations who provide support for those affected by drugs misuse.
For further information on County Lines see the Sussex Police website.
'County Lines' is a term used by Police and partner agencies to refer to drug networks, both gangs and organised crime groups, from large urban areas such as London, who use children and young people and vulnerable adults to carry out illegal activity on their behalf. Gangs dealing drugs is not a new issue but the extent to which criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults, as well as the increasing use of violence, has become an inherent part of it through 'County Lines' makes it especially damaging.
The organised crime groups tend to use a local property, generally belonging to a vulnerable person, sometimes a drug user, as a base for their activities. This is known as 'cuckooing' and will often happen by force or coercion. In some instances victims have left their homes in fear of violence. Much police work involves identifying these victims and helping them.
Police continue to see children being exploited by criminal gangs to supply drugs in Sussex. Children have travelled from London to Sussex to deal drugs on behalf of county line gangs as well as Sussex children being exploited and targeted by London gangs to deal drugs locally. Our priority is to identify those children at risk of criminal exploitation and once identified work with partner agencies to put the appropriate safeguarding measures in place. "
The areas in Sussex most effected by the drug trade from London are the larger coastal towns, with established drugs markets that can be exploited locally, including Hastings, Eastbourne, Worthing, Bognor, and Brighton, but also towns such as Crawley.
Although there are currently some 30 'deal lines' in operation in Sussex at any one time, often overlapping with other force areas, that figure fluctuates on a regular basis. A ‘deal line’ is the dedicated mobile phone line to take orders from drug users.