Two arrests were made and drugs and weapons seized in Bedfordshire as part of a national crackdown on county drugs lines Image:Bedfordshire Police

Two arrests were made and drugs and weapons seized

Bedfordshire Police carried out warrants at five addresses in Bedford last week across three days of action. Officers also offered safeguarding support to a number of people as part of the operation.

This was part of a wave of enforcement by police forces across the country, which resulted in more than 700 arrests, 681 people being safeguarded, and almost half a million pounds worth of drugs being seized.

PC James West, from Bedfordshire Police’s specialist Operation Nola county lines team, said:

“County lines is a vile business where organised crime exploits children and other vulnerable people in the pursuit of selling drugs.

“Last week was particularly focussed around cuckooing, where dealers take over the home of someone and use it as a base to produce and sell their products.

“We will continue to make Bedfordshire a hostile place for dealers looking to operate in our county and protect these vulnerable people from being exploited.”

The targeted activity was co-ordinated by the National County Lines Coordination Centre (NCLCC). The NCLCC is jointly run by the National Crime Agency and National Police Chiefs Council.

This is the fourth week of intensification since the NCLCC was launched in 2018. These weeks have so far prevented more than 3,000 vulnerable people, including children, from being exploited by drug gangs.

Latest phase of crackdown on county lines coming into Bedfordshire

Two lines coming into Bedford from other areas have been dismantled already this year. Those involved were jailed for a total of 11-and-a-half years. Bedfordshire Police’s dedicated county lines team, Operation Nola, has made more than 60 arrests and seized around £20,000 worth of drugs since it launched last year.

Overall across 2018, Bedfordshire officers seized around £1 million of drugs from dealers, gave evidence in 156 drug trafficking cases and seized more than £400,000 of criminal cash.

Since January 2018, 219 people linked to organised crime groups (OCGs) have been arrested. Across the force, OCG offenders have been jailed for a total of 338 years over the same timeframe.

More than 20 OCGs based in Bedfordshire have been identified, most of which are linked to the supply of drugs. All of those OCGs linked to firearms are also linked to drugs, with many firearms discharges and incidents assessed to be related to tensions between rival gangs that supply drugs.

County lines signs to spot Image:Bedfordshire Police

Nikki Holland, National Crime Agency county lines lead and director of investigations, said:

“Over the last year of county lines intensifications we have seized more than a million pounds – hitting them where it hurts so they don’t benefit from their crimes.

“We also know that criminal networks use high levels of violence, exploitation and abuse and we’re seeing young and vulnerable people being identified as victims of modern slavery, as the criminals exploit and coerce them into doing the day-to-day drug supply activity.

“The only way we can effectively tackle this national problem is by adopting a whole-system approach, with partners in public health, Department for Education, social care and the charity sector working to prevent that exploitation happening in the first place.”

If you suspect someone is at risk of being exploited by organised crime, report it to police on 101 or via the Bedfordshire Police online reporting centre.

You can also contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

For more information about county lines and criminal exploitation visit the Bedfordshire Police website.