Drugs gangs from as far away as Kent and London are known to be targetting Deeside a local police inspector has revealed.
The ever-growing threat of “County Lines” came under the spotlight when North Flintshire Inspector Gareth Cust briefed town councillors in Connah’s Quay last week on the latest actions police have taken to disrupt the flow of Class A drugs into the area.
County Line networks are having a huge impact on communities in Flintshire where dealers are known to take over the homes of vulnerable people to use as drugs bases, a practice known as “cuckooing.”
The so-called County Lines model sees organised crime groups (OCG’s) from cities establish a network between their urban hubs and county locations.
A key feature of County Lines drug supply is the use of a branded mobile phone line which is established in the marketplace and promoted throughout the existing customer base.
A phone line is usually controlled by senior group members who tend to be located in the urban hub to avoid local police, these phone lines can generate thousands of pounds daily.
Vulnerable children and adults are recruited to transport drugs from urban areas into the county, often using the rail network.
Asked what actions North Wales Police had taken recently to combat the drug trafficking threat in Connah’s Quay Inspector Cust, said officers in North Flintshire are putting a “massive amount of effort into it tackling County Lines in Connah’s Quay and in Shotton.”
Inspector Cust said issues in Connah’s Quay are heavily linked to Shotton because of the train station, “which acts as a gateway for gangs from Manchester and Liverpool, we have had, on occasions, gangs come from Kent, London and the Midlands.”
Rail networks are a favoured transport method for County Lines gangs who use children, sometimes as young as 12, to courier drugs and money across the country.
[Police carrying out searches on trains in Shotton]
Police carried out a high profile operation last week at Shotton train station involving officers from the Modern Slavery Unit who were joined by local police and assisted by drugs sniffer dogs.
Inspector Cust said the aim of the operation was to, “target the train line from Bidston and Birkenhead area, primarily we are looking for young people who could be being exploited.
We had drugs dogs going through trains and checked people coming off them at Shotton.”
A number of arrests are understood to have been made during the operation.
Inspector Cust said Hawarden Bridge station had become a drug dealing hotspot “due to the increased police activity in Shotton.”
“I devote a team to County Lines, we carrying out warrants daily, targets are based on intelligence a lot of which comes from the community.”
Police depend heavily on ‘community intelligence’ and need information from local residents, friends and neighbours of those who may be being preyed on by criminal gangs.
Cuckooing often, but not always, takes place in a multi-occupancy or social housing property
There may be an increase in the number of comings and goings, including people haven’t been seen in that location before.
There might be new vehicles outside the property.
There could also be a possible increase in anti-social behaviour in and around the property
If you have information about any suspected criminal or suspicious activity in your area, you can report it to police by calling the 101 number or reporting it via the force website follow this link.
If you have any information about those exploiting children and young people, Crimestoppers charity can help.
Call their UK Contact Centre anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use our non-traceable online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.