(Detective Superintendent, Nick Plummer)
The haul also included 82 mobile phones, weapons and a firearm.
The arrests were the result of a countywide intensification into drugs supply in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight where police have been focussed on disruption and dismantling county lines.
The intensification activity saw 17 drug networks disrupted, with police targeting individuals who ran either local or county lines, supplying crack cocaine and heroin.
Warrants took place in London and in towns and cities across Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport, Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton, the New Forest, Eastleigh and Isle of Wight over the last two weeks.
A total of 88 men and 12 women were arrested. Thirteen of these were aged under 18. Most offences were for being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs, with a few under modern day slavery legislation.
Neighbourhood officers visited cuckooed addresses across the Force region with 42 vulnerable people being identified and six safeguarded.
The proactive operation involved officers from right across the Force – including Neighbourhoods teams, drug and high harm teams, proactive roads policing, firearms, dogs, crime investigation detectives and officers from the county lines specialist team Op Monument.
County lines is a familiar term to many, but to others it is still an entirely unknown concept. It is not a crime type but a drugs distribution model that involves criminals setting up a phone line through which they sell Class A drugs – mainly crack cocaine and heroin.
Those in charge of the phone line often recruit children and vulnerable young adults into trafficking the drugs all over the country to avoid detection. These individuals are often threatened with violence and are unable to escape.
Cuckooing is when a drug dealer takes over the home of a vulnerable individual who often lives on their own. Like a cuckoo, the dealer moves in, takes over the property and turns it into a drugs den.
Over the past 18 months, Hampshire Constabulary has developed a deeper understanding of the drivers of county lines and how those running lines operate. It is now tackling it under the name Op Monument, alongside the Metropolitan Police’s Op Orochi.
The operation involved joint work with British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police and Royal Mail. This intensification period yielded the following results:
- 100 arrests
- 24 vulnerable people identified
- 9 vulnerable juveniles engaged
- Cash seized £52,703.50
- 81.5 grams of crack cocaine and 91 wraps seized
- 62g of heroin and 92 wraps seized
- 9 weapons – machetes, knives, CS gas, air rifle, BB gun recovered
- 1 DDTRO – drug dealing telecommunications restriction order requiring the disconnection of a communication device, phone number or something else used with a communication device which is being used in connection with drug dealing offences.
- 10 school county line education visits
- 7 taxi firm engagements
All those arrested were questioned on suspicion of offences, including suppling drugs, possession of firearms and criminal property.
Head of Serious Organised Crime, Detective Superintendent, Nick Plummer, said, “Operations like this, which target the criminal exploitation of vulnerable people, are vital because we know that this type of criminality drives a high proportion of violent crime in our communities.
“During these weeks of intensification we have identified vulnerable people, most of whom were victims of this type of exploitation, who we are now safeguarding and working with them to give support they need.
“If you are concerned or worried about a young or vulnerable person please contact your local safeguarding partnership website to seek help.”
Hampshire Constabulary has confirmed that in the last 12 months, through Op Monument work alone, there have been nine convictions and 25 county lines dismantled. The team has also identified 69 young people identified at risk of exploitation / grooming as a result of contact with a county drug line. Many more are still progressing through the courts.
Live investigations remain ongoing with the main focus on dismantling the remaining county lines and safeguarding vulnerable people.
Anyone with information on drugs can contact police on 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by phone or online https://crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/forms/give-information-anonymously
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