County lines operation by Police Scotland targets cuckooing by drug dealers
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Police Scotland reported on the success of a recent UK-wide initiative to target drug dealers who exploit vulnerable young people by cuckooing – targeting them in their own homes in order to set up a local drug supply.
The national County Lines Intensification Week of activity took place from Monday, October 9 to Friday, October 15 and was carried out across the far north as well as the rest of the UK.
Proactive action by officers saw a number of vulnerable people being identified and safeguarded and addresses used for cuckooing being visited. Illegal drugs and offensive weapons, including a firearm, were also recovered.
Assistant chief constable Andy Freeburn said: “The harm caused by illegal drugs across Scotland is well-documented and county lines drug dealers bring nothing but misery to our communities. They exploit vulnerable people and groom and threaten young people to become involved in their nefarious activities.
“Over the past week we have worked in partnership with a wide range of national organisations, including the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce, to crack down on those involved in county lines activity.
“Our message is clear, this is simply not welcome or tolerated in Scotland.”
During the UK-wide initiative – coordinated by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) – officers in Scotland:
- Safeguarded 17 vulnerable people and engaged with another 650.
- 373 addresses believed to be used for the purposes of cuckooing were also visited.
- 25 people were arrested for a variety of offences including; being in possession of a firearm and ammunition, attempted murder and the supply of illegal drugs.
- 18 warrants were also executed.
- Cocaine with a street value of over £250,000, heroin with a street value of £33,000 and crack cocaine with a street value of almost £30,000, were seized. Cannabis, a quantity of tablets and over £220,000 in cash were also recovered.
- A number offensive weapons such as machetes, a meat cleaver, a knife and a baseball bat were recovered. An electric bike, two Audi cars and several mobiles phones were seized.
'County lines' is a term used to describe activity by criminals from larger cities who expand their operations into smaller towns. They exploit young and vulnerable people to sell drugs, carry cash and weapons – bringing violence, coercion and abuse. They may also take over a vulnerable person’s house, known as cuckooing.
Justice Secretary Angela Constance said: “I welcome the county lines intensification activity by Police Scotland, which has helped to safeguard a number of individuals. It is essential that we protect our most vulnerable citizens from being exploited by ruthless criminals whose only focus is on increasing their wealth.
“This year, Scotland’s Serious Organised Crime Taskforce published practitioner guidance on the criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults. The guidance aims to help those who come into contact with children and vulnerable adults on a regular basis to identify the signs of possible exploitation and what measures should be put in place to protect them.”
Assistant chief constable Freeburn added: “These hugely positive results during the intensification week are an example of our continuing work in support of Scotland’s Serious and Organised Crime Strategy.
“I would urge anyone who has concerns about county lines activity or knowledge of who may be involved to contact Police Scotland or alternatively to Crimestoppers anonymously.”
Notable activity in Scotland includes:
- An investigation is ongoing after a vehicle was stopped as it travelled between England and Scotland and £200,000 in Scottish notes was recovered.
- Officers in Inverness safely traced a 17-year-old male youth, who is believed to be involved in county lines activity and had been reported missing from Birmingham,
- West Midlands Police arrested a man wanted in Aberdeen on behalf of Police Scotland.