Police arrest 14 people in Berwick dawn raids while targeting suspected drug dealing linked to County Lines
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On Wednesday, January 22, officers from Northumbria Police teamed up with the North East Regional Special Operations Unit to carry out warrants for Operation Eclipse. Officers from Merseyside Police were also targeting addresses in their area.
A total of 14 people were arrested on suspicion of drugs-related offences linked to ‘County Lines.’
This is where criminal networks often expand their operations from urban areas to more rural locations and smaller towns. A single phone line is typically used by drug dealers to facilitate the supply of Class A drugs, often resorting to violence and intimidation.
In Berwick, five warrants were issued across the area.
Eight men, aged 20, 33, 35, 38, 39, 47, 51 and 54, and three women, aged 29, 41 and 53 were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. All of these people have suspected links to Merseyside.
Officers also seized drugs, drugs paraphernalia and a number of mobile phones suspected to be linked to County Lines.
Detective Chief Superintendent David Felton, of Northumbria Police’s Crime Department, said: “Today’s activity to target suspected County Lines offences shows how police forces across the country are working together to dismantle criminal networks and protect vulnerable people who are exploited by them.
“This is very much an emerging crime trend in our area and it is proactive activity which will send a strong message to anyone who is thinking of targeting our communities.”
Police arrested three males, aged 16, 17 and 18, all on suspicion of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs In Merseyside.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Reardon, from Merseyside Police, said: "In the last two months the concentrated activity and determination of our officers, working together with other forces in the UK, has led to the severing of seven of these County Lines.”
The council say that they are determined to work with the police to prevent the spread in the county.
County Councillor John Riddle, Chair of the Safer Northumberland Partnership, said: "We work closely with our partners in the police to tackle drug misuse and hopefully today's operation will serve as a warning to others that this crime will not be tolerated."
Through the Violence Reduction Unit’s prevention and early intervention, officers want to keep those at risk safe.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness said: “We are also working really hard to prevent this type of exploitation happening in the first place by supporting those who are vulnerable, perhaps without stable home lives or positive influences around them. It’s these young people who are often the easy targets for these heartless and cruel dealers.”
Early identification of a County Line is crucial so members of the public are encouraged to get in touch with any intelligence or concerns as soon as possible.
Common signs to look out for include an increase in visitors to an address, unfamiliar cars or new people and unexplained new items appearing at properties.
Any suspicions or information should be reported to local police on 101 or via the British Transport Police.