Nearly 1,500 suspected drug traffickers have been arrested, while weapons including zombie knives and samurai swords were seized, in a week-long county lines crackdown by police.
Forces in England and Wales focused on the organised drugs crime, which involves dealers using mobile phones to help transfer class A substances from large cities to towns and rural areas, between October 11-17.
County lines are run by “line holders” and young children and vulnerable adults are often groomed, coerced, or threatened into being used as “runners” to deliver the drugs.
The practice also routinely leads to violence, and 289 weapons – including 49 firearms and 120 knives – were seized in the week-long police operation.
Weapons uncovered also included 12 zombie knives, 22 machetes, eight samurai swords and four crossbows.
Some 1,468 people were arrested, and 2,664 vulnerable people – mostly children – were engaged for safeguarding by police.
A total of £1,254,384 was also seized, along with £2 million worth of class A drugs.
Some 28.8kg of heroin and 26.8kg of cocaine were found, and officers visited 894 cuckooed addresses, which are households usually of vulnerable people used to store drugs.
Graham McNulty, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for county lines, said police are making “significant inroads into dismantling violent county lines”.
“The figures speak for themselves – we’re stopping abhorrent criminals abusing young people and lining their own pockets in the process,” he said.
“Nearly £2,000,000 worth of class A drugs and hundreds of weapons are now off our streets thanks to the work of officers up and down the country.”
He praised the work of the Children’s Society charity, which has helped officers to identify children involved in the crimes, and urged anyone worried about a vulnerable person who could be engaged in county lines to contact police.
The NPCC said the number of county lines operating in England and Wales has declined from 2000 in 2018 to around 600 active lines currently, thanks to the work of forces in major exporting areas including MerseysideWest Midlands and London.
Police can now bring victimless prosecutions for modern slavery offences, which ensure children and vulnerable adults are spared the ordeal of having to face their exploiters in court.