A drug dealing telephone line in Eastbourne has been closed down by police.
A court issued a drug dealing telephone restriction order this month as part of a crackdown on County Lines drug dealers.
Police say they are keeping up the pressure and during just one week in October, as part of the latest phase of coordinated law enforcement activity across the UK, officers in Sussex made 29 arrests, and seized more than £35,000 worth of class A drugs as well as 30 mobile phones.
In the same week local officers identified and took safeguarding action for seven vulnerable people including three children, and visited 48 addresses where people were at risk of being ‘cuckooed’ to check on their safety.
Officers in East Sussex also visited colleges to speak to students about the dangers of becoming involved in this type of criminality.
In addition, just two weeks previously, police investigating another ‘County Lines’ operation had executed a search warrant at an address in Ashington where they seized drugs and cash.
Two men aged 48 and 49, and a woman aged 42, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. They were interviewed and released under investigation. Officers had also obtained a DDTRO on the phone number used and it was disabled.
Detective superintendent Jo Banks said, “This is the result of just one week’s activity but we continue every day to disrupt dealers who try to deal dangerous drugs across our communities and we target those who use children to sell drugs or those who buy drugs from children. We investigate and prosecute, working relentlessly and targeting those who would bring harm to local people, including often the most vulnerable.
“Local crime is often a direct result of major drug distribution via county lines and by working together with partners to shed a light on this often hidden crime. We are sending a clear message to drug dealers that they cannot expect to go undetected in Sussex.”
County Lines is a term used by police and partner agencies to refer to drug networks, both gangs and organised crime groups, from large urban areas such as London, who use children and young people and vulnerable adults to carry out illegal activity on their behalf. Gangs dealing drugs is not a new issue but the extent to which criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults, as well as the increasing use of violence, has become an inherent part of it through ‘County Lines’ makes it especially damaging.
Police say the organised crime groups tend to use a local property, generally belonging to a vulnerable person, sometimes a drug user, as a base for their activities. This is known as ‘cuckooing’ and will often happen by force or coercion. In some instances victims have left their homes in fear of violence. Much police work involves identifying these victims and helping them.
Police continue to see children being exploited by criminal gangs to supply drugs in Sussex with experienced children travelling from London to Sussex to deal drugs on behalf of county line gangs as well Sussex children being exploited and targeted by London gangs to deal drugs locally. Police say the priority is to identify those children at risk of criminal exploitation and once identified work with partner agencies to put the appropriate safeguarding measures in place.
The areas in Sussex most effected by the drug trade from London are the larger coastal towns, with established drugs markets that can be exploited locally, including Hastings, Eastbourne, Worthing, Bognor, and Brighton, but also towns such as Crawley.
Det Supt Banks said, “We use the range of legal powers to tackle this problem, ranging from the Misuse of Drugs Act to Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking legislation and can use technological advances through the use of DDTROs.
“We also work closely with other agencies to support those vulnerable adults and children who are exploited by county line gangs. This includes regular visits to those adults at risk of cuckooing and raising awareness with those agencies engaged with children to ensure that information is shared effectively to prevent young people being drawn in to this criminality.”
There are currently some 90 ‘deal lines’ in operation in Sussex at any one time, often overlapping with other force areas, but that figure fluctuates on a regular basis. A ‘deal line’ is the dedicated mobile phone line to take orders from drug users.
A police spokesperson said, “Members of the public can also help, the best advice is to trust your instincts – if somebody shows signs of mistreatment, or a child seems to be travelling long distances or is unfamiliar with a locality, you can report suspicions to local police on 101 or online - or to British Transport Police if you see something on the railway network.”