Police last week raided 16 properties across the Lincolnshire area and made nine arrests of suspected county lines drug dealers.
The visits were part of a nationwide drive by the police and the National Crime Agency to tackle known county lines and ensure drug users vulnerable to exploitation are offered help and support.
‘Cuckooing’ is the term used when drug dealers use violence, exploitation and intimidation to take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for drug dealing.
‘County lines’ refers to the gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas in the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines or another form of ‘deal line’.
Gangs based in cities are targeting the most vulnerable people in smaller area across the country, including Lincolnshire, to sell class A drugs on their behalf, say Lincolnshire Police.
Nationally over 586 arrests were made between May 13 and 20.
As part of the week of action, a number of warrants were executed at properties across Lincolnshire, including Sleaford, Lincoln, Louth and Grantham, linked to drugs, resulting in the arrest of nine people - seven men and two women.
Five of these arrests were made in connection with possession with intent to supply and four were for being concerned in the supply of controlled drugs. All of those arrested have been either released under investigation, released on bail or released with no further action.
Four different County Lines were identified during the week of action.
In total, across Lincolnshire, 12 vulnerable adults were spoken to following welfare checks.
During the warrants officers seized quantities of heroin, cocaine, cannabis and amphetamine and a quantity of unknown tablets.
Five knives were also confiscated along with more than £3,000 cash and mobile phones.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Knubley, force lead for county lines, said: “We all know drugs have a detrimental impact on our communities, with anti-social behaviour and other crimes such as theft and burglary committed by users looking to fund their habits.
“But county lines gangs also pose a significant threat to users who are especially susceptible to exploitation. Many do not view themselves as victims and are often manipulated into carrying out crimes or subjected to violence.
“We are committed to tackling those who inflict such harm on our communities whether they are members of the public, people with substance misuse issues or children vulnerable to exploitation.
“In the past week, we have been able to speak face to face with people who may not have otherwise proactively sought help, signposting them to support agencies and giving advice on how to keep themselves safe.
“We have also caused significant disruption to the gangs supplying the county lines in our force area, taking drugs and weapons off our streets in the process.
“It is important that everybody recognises the signs of drug activity and exploitation of vulnerable people.
“If you have any information about people you believe are involved in drugs, either as victims or perpetrators, please let us know. We will assess all intelligence received and take robust action where necessary.”
Detective Inspector Emma Nealon, County Line Tactical Coordination and Support Officer for East Midlands Special Operations Unit, said: “We are now starting to see and hear the term county lines on the television and in the papers on a daily basis. It’s infiltrated our news feeds like the perpetrators have invaded our communities.
“In the East Midlands we have seen a number of county lines prosecutions, as well as these more recent results as part of a nationally coordinated intensification week.
“Policing this type of criminality not only involves removing drugs and the violence that comes with it from our streets, we must also work closely with our partners to identify those vulnerable people who have been groomed or exploited into this type of criminality and help them break away from it.
“And you can help us. Do you know the signs to look out for?
“Has a mate or young relative started dressing differently, wearing expensive designer clothes or flashing the cash when they have never had it before? Have they started to go missing for long periods of time, disengaging with school and becoming prone to truancy or even exclusion? Do they turn up with injuries they try to hide or explain away? Have you seen them in multiple taxis or different cars driven by unknown adults?
“And what about your neighbourhood? Has there been an increase in visitors and cars to a particular house or flat? Are there unfamiliar faces or regularly changing residents, with accents not local to the area? Are there new young people in the area who appear to be unaccustomed to their surroundings? Is there evidence of substance misuse or drug paraphernalia from a neighbour? Have they become withdrawn or aggressive?
“Those who are vulnerable to county lines are also vulnerable to other forms of exploitation so trust your gut and report it.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones added: “It is crucial that law enforcement brings an end to activities of the despicable gangs that both peddle drugs and enslave vulnerable children to do their bidding.
“I am delighted that Lincolnshire Police has been at the forefront of the County Lines campaign and completely support their efforts to bring these criminals to justice.
“Keeping children safe and drugs off out streets are crucial in the continued drive to keep our communities safe and I will continue to work with our partners agencies across the county to support our force’s efforts.”
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for County Lines, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Duncan Ball, said: “The past week has seen police forces work together across the UK to send a clear message that we will do everything possible to dismantle County Lines gangs and protect the vulnerable being exploited by them.
“The large number of arrests and weapons seizures is testament to the hard work and dedication of officers across the country, the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre and the support of key partners like social care, the NHS, schools and the charity sector.
“Tackling County Lines is not something we can do alone and we need the public to help us by reporting any information or concerns. You can give your information anonymously to Crimestoppers and help us pursue and prosecute those who commit violence and exploit the vulnerable.”
Anyone with concerns about County Lines can call us on 101 or call 999 in an emergency. If you’d rather stay anonymous you can call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
If you are a young person who is worried about being involved in County Lines, or knows someone who is, you can speak to an adult and let them know how you feel and report it.
You can also contact www.fearless.org who allow you to pass on information about crime anonymously.