County lines drug gang which left Holywell “under siege” jailed for total of 25 years
An Organised Crime Group operating in Flintshire has been given a total of 25 years in prison after they were convicted of a string of drug offences at Mold Crown Court on Monday.
The convictions come on the back of an operation run by police in Flintshire last year – ‘Operation Listen’ was aimed at smashing a County Lines drug dealing operation running in Holywell.
Officers say they have proven that six men and woman from the Merseyside area were responsible for the increase in theft and violence between July to October 2018.
The Organised Crime Group (OCG) dealt crack cocaine and heroin in Holywell and in the four months the operation was active over 30,000 calls and messages were sent in relation to the sale of drugs.
A knife an axe and a machete were recovered from the suspects, along with significant quantities of cash and drugs.
Most significantly a county lines graft phone was seized in North Wales for the first time ever.
The so-called ‘graft’ phone number is used by OCG’s gang to direct users to locations where heroin and crack cocaine dealers can be found and where they could get drugs from.
Four of the six defendants pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to supply Class A Drugs and two were convicted by a jury after a mere 15 minutes of deliberation.
A spokesperson for the North Flintshire police team said:
“Today (Monday 30 October) at Mold Crown Court the group have been sentenced to a combined total of more than 25 years behind bars.
This operation involved working closely with Merseyside Police but was run by your (Flintshire) local Neighbourhood Policing Team.
We are happy that all the individuals have been brought to justice and we appreciate all the support and patience that was shown to us by the local community who the sentencing judge Nicholas Parry described as “being under siege” when the group was active.
We’ve got some pictures for you to look at which shows the scale of this investigation and the individuals involved.
Please continue to support us in making North Wales the safest place in the UK.”
County Lines Gangs
The so-called county lines model sees organised crime groups (OCG’s) from inner city areas like Manchester and Liverpool 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.
North Wales is a particularly easy target for the OCG’s due to the logistical ease in which drugs can be ferried from urban hubs, by young drug runners who are known to use rail networks as the predominant mode of transport.
Young people are often coerced, groomed and threatened with violence to take part in Class A drug dealing activity across North Wales.
Police depend heavily on ‘community intelligence’ and need information from local residents about drug dealing or suspicious activity in your area.
How do you know if County Lines drug dealing is happening in your area?
Some signs to look out for include:
- An increase in visitors and cars to a house or flat
- New faces appearing at the house or flat
- New and regularly changing residents (e.g different accents compared to local accent
- Change in resident’s mood and/or demeanour (e.g. secretive/ withdrawn/ aggressive/ emotional)
- Substance misuse and/or drug paraphernalia
- Changes in the way young people you might know dress
- Unexplained, sometimes unaffordable new things (e.g clothes, jewellery, cars etc)
- Residents or young people you know going missing, maybe for long periods of time
- Young people seen in different cars/taxis driven by unknown adults
- Young people seeming unfamiliar with your community or where they are
- Truancy, exclusion, disengagement from school
- An increase in anti-social behaviour in the community
- Unexplained injuries
What to do if you have concerns
The best advice is to trust your instincts. Even if someone isn’t involved in county lines drug dealing, they may be being exploited in some other way, so it’s always worth speaking out.
Information can be passed to North Wales Police direct via the web live chat http://www.north-wales.police.uk/contact/chat-support.aspx or by phoning 101
If you would rather remain anonymous, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
If you notice something linked to the railways, you can report concerns to the British Transport Police by texting 61016 from your mobile. In an emergency dial 999.
If you are a young person who is worried about your involvement, or a friend’s involvement in county lines
A good option is to speak to an adult you trust and talk to them about your concerns.
You can also call Childline on 0800 1111. Childline is private and confidential service where you can talk to specially trained counsellors about anything that is worrying you.
Alternatively, speak to a children and young people’s service like Catch 22.
They work with children and young people of any age to help get them out of situations they’re worried about, and have helped lots of children and young people involved in County Lines.