Four days of action targeting county lines drug dealing in Harrogate have seen nine arrests, the recovery of drugs, cash and mobile phones, and welfare visits to 76 vulnerable people at risk of exploitation.
The four proactive operations took place over separate days in February and March in partnership with the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) with funding from the Home Office and the National County Lines Coordination Centre (NCLCC).
In addition to the nine arrests, officers recovered heroin and cocaine with an estimated street value of £2,600, cannabis and amphetamines, £500 cash suspected as being the proceeds of crime, they seized eight mobile phones, one large hunting knife and identified a new county line impacting on Harrogate.
The operations also involved safeguarding and welfare visits with officers visiting 76 people who are considered vulnerable to county lines exploitation. They were given advice and information about staying safe and how to spot the signs of county lines activity, as many – often drug users themselves – don’t recognise themselves as victims.
During one visit, officers arrested four teenage boys from Leeds, one aged 16 and three aged 17, who were believed to be staying with a vulnerable person in Harrogate in a practice known as “cuckooing”. This is where drug dealers or ‘runners’ who are often exploited people themselves, travel out-of-town and need somewhere to stay while they sell their drugs. They often use the homes of vulnerable people to stay in.
Officers recovered a significant quantity of crack cocaine and heroin, phones, cash, and the large hunting knife.
One of the boys has since been charged with possessing heroin and crack cocaine with intent to supply and is currently awaiting trial. The other three remain on police bail while the investigation continues.
In another incident two men were stopped in a vehicle travelling from Leeds to Harrogate and arrested after officers found 26 bags of suspected MDMA and cocaine inside a pizza box. The pair aged 18 and 28 from Leeds, remain released while under investigation.
In another incident, a 30-year-old man from Southampton was arrested in Harrogate when officers became suspicious of a vehicle driving around the town. After stopping the car and searching the suspect, officers found 11 wraps of suspected cocaine, and cash suspected of being the proceeds of crime. The man was later released while under investigation.
Detective Sergeant Marcus Dawson of Harrogate-based Operation Expedite – North Yorkshire Police’s dedicated county lines team, said: “The safeguarding of vulnerable people continues to be a key focus of our work and these nationally funded days of action are very welcome, providing a boost to our existing proactive work, and allowing us to protect more people and disrupt more drug dealers.
“They also give us an opportunity the gather more intelligence about drug dealing, information that then goes on to inform more operational activity in the future.
“Our thanks go to the NCLCC and ROCU for their support with our Harrogate operations. Members of the public can also help us protect vulnerable people by calling in information. No matter how small you believe it to be, your actions could help to keep a vulnerable person safe or get them help and support.”
Detective Inspector Mark Catney is the County Lines Crime Co-ordinator for the Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit. He added: “It is important to work together with partners to tackle county lines crime.
“Criminals do not respect force borders so our approach must be to work together to achieve the maximum possible impact – by bringing those responsible for it to justice and by safeguarding vulnerable victims.
“I would particularly like to thank the Home Office and the National County Lines Coordination Centre – they provided funding to support this successful operation.”
Spot the signs of cuckooing and exploitation
- Increased callers at a property
- Increase in cars pulling up for short periods of time
- Different accents at a property
- Increased antisocial behaviour at a property
- Not seeing the resident for long periods of time
- Unfamiliar vehicles at the property
- Windows covered or curtains closed for long period
Spot the signs that a young person may be exploited by drug dealers
- Persistently going missing from school or home and / or being found out-of-area;
- Unexplained money, clothes, or mobile phones
- Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls
- Relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups
- Leaving home / care without explanation
- Suspicion of physical assault / unexplained injuries
- Carrying weapons
- Significant decline in school results / performance
- Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks
- Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being
DO NOT approach anyone you suspect is involved in drug dealing. Please report it to the police on 101, or to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. If a person is in immediate danger, always call 999.
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