Police launch county lines drugs crackdown
POLICE are launching a massive crackdown on drug dealers from cities who move into towns, including Yate, to expand their criminal trade.
Officers will target the so-called “county lines” operations as part of Operation Remedy, which starts in April, involving 100 extra officers paid for by a 12 per cent rise in Avon & Somerset Police’s council tax precept.
They will also target “cuckooing”, a major problem in the Bristol area, where gangs preying on vulnerable people take over their homes to use as a base.
The region’s “county lines” are run by criminals, usually from London, who force children and vulnerable people to transport, store and sell drugs in smaller county towns, with the name referring to the phone lines used by gangs to communicate.
As well as Yate, police say they are known to operate in Bath, Bridgwater, Taunton, Weston-super-Mare and Yeovil.
The Avon and Somerset force is aware of 34 of the sophisticated criminal networks are embedded across its area.
Bristol is largely immune from county lines gangs because its own criminals defend their territory to stop outsiders coming in.
Police and crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens revealed the shocking scale of the problem in Somerset at a public police and crime panel meeting.
She said: “We are now aware of at least 34 county lines in Somerset. That’s a large increase.”
At a PCC and police public forum in Bristol, chief constable Andy Marsh said: “We’re going to make a very big bang and a very big splash with Operation Remedy.
“That’s what we’re going to use to get in front of the knife crime, to get in front of the drug dealing, particularly county lines, which is incredibly damaging to children and young people.
“It’s quite often vulnerable young people who get drawn into drug dealing.
“If you get drawn into drug dealing, you want to make your money and get out, but that doesn’t happen.
“They either go to prison, die a horrible death, overdose or get stabbed.
“Almost every day, certainly in Bristol, there are stabbings, nearly 600 last year.
“Every one of them could be a murder.
“We find significantly it’s young men and they will turn up in hospital with a stab wound and won’t tell us who did it because one in four of those are associated with county lines and drug deaths.”
Describing cuckooing, Bristol commander Supt Andy Bennett said: “Drug dealers have an ability to identify vulnerable people, befriend them and take over their premises.
“Then they operate from their flats.”