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Police and partners unite to tackle county lines drug dealing in Harrogate and Skipton

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Police and partners in Harrogate and Skipton have been working together to protect vulnerable people from exploitation by county lines drug dealers.

“County lines” is the term used for a form of organised crime where criminals based in large, urban areas exploit young, and vulnerable people, using violence and threats to force them to sell, store, and transport drugs to smaller county towns on their behalf. It takes its name from the phone lines used to communicate between towns.

Two key priorities for North Yorkshire Police are the practices of “cuckooing” which is where drug dealers use violence to take over a vulnerable person’s home to store and sell drugs. And child criminal exploitation where young people are groomed by dealers before being forced to transport and sell drugs on their behalf.

This week police officers, housing officers, and drug and alcohol workers have joined together to carry out welfare checks on victims of cuckooing and those who may be vulnerable to cuckooing.
By having a joint approach vulnerable people can quickly access advice and support around a range of issues from help with drug dependency to breaches of tenancy agreements.

The police also make use of cease and desist notices, which is a warning to a householder where it is suspected drug dealing is taking place, that they will face prosecution if they don’t prevent the illegal activity from taking place.

The team also carried out visits to taxi ranks, takeaways and homeless shelters to help inform people about the signs to look out for and how to report concerns they may have. Skipton police also held a pop-up engagement event in the town centre to help raise awareness among members of the public.

Railway passengers may have also noticed an increased police presence at the train stations as officers also carried out patrols to intercept anyone who may be using the railway to bring drugs into the towns.

Chief Inspector Andy Colbourne of Harrogate and Craven Neighbourhood Policing Command, said: “The disruption of county lines drug-relating activity and protecting vulnerable people who are exploited by drug dealers continues to be a priority for North Yorkshire Police. The police can’t do it on their own and by working together with our partners we can address the various, complex factors associated with county lines – from disrupting criminal behaviour to getting help for people with a drug dependency. My thanks go to everyone who works with us to confront and disrupt the issues caused by county lines.”

Information from members of the public is vital in helping the police disrupt criminal activity. Drug dealing can take a long time to investigate and bring people to justice. So please don’t be put off by thinking that the police are not acting on your information. Every little bit of information can help piece together a wider picture which will then inform the police activity.

The signs of cuckooing to look out for include:
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 periods

Gangs are increasingly using social media to recruit children who aren’t typically vulnerable, so everyone needs to be alert to the following signs:
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

If you suspect a child you care for or know is being exploited, please call the police on 101, if they are in immediate danger, always call 999

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.

Last modified: May 16, 2019