More than 60 people arrested during week of action tackling county lines in Swindon

Alert message sent 24/01/2020 15:47:00

Information sent on behalf of Wiltshire Police

More than 60 arrests, £40,000 worth of class A drugs and approximately £10,000 cash has been seized by officers cracking down on county lines drugs gangs this week.

Operation Samphire launched on Monday (20/01) and has involved approximately 60 officers from departments across the Force carrying out a series of warrants and proactive overt and covert patrols.

The operation has taken months of planning and has been a huge success with a total of 61 arrests within five days. 

Those arrested range in age from 14 to 53 and have included arrests for multiple offences such as possession with intent to supply class A drugs, possession of a knife in a public place, breaching bail conditions and driving whilst disqualified. 

The majority of warrants were carried out at the beginning of the week with the last two days consisting primarily of proactive policing work to locate any wanted offenders as well as those continuing to deal drugs within our communities. 

Specialist firearms officers assisted at a number of the warrants to provide specialist method of entry equipment and skills. 

County lines refers to the drug dealing methodology which involves criminal networks often from larger cities expanding their activities into smaller towns and rural areas.

Dealers typically use a single phone line to facilitate the supply of class A drugs – frequently heroin and crack cocaine - to customers who are often vulnerable drug users within our communities. The line becomes a valuable brand and is protected with violence and intimidation.

Detective Inspector Paul Franklin led the operation.

He said: "This has been an overwhelmingly positive week for Swindon. We’ve made a huge difference to the current county lines picture here in the town. Back in October we arrested 63 people as part of Operation Jetway which was the first phase of our county lines action. By coming back and striking for a second time, we’ve been able to stop dealers trying to re-establish the market once again. 

“We’ve seized thousands of pounds worth of drugs, cash and weapons during this week and I hope the public feel reassured by these results that we are fully committed to tackling county lines and the harm it causes to our communities.

“I know it will come of some concern that during the operation we have arrested a boy as young as 14, but please be reassured that our work has been ongoing this week regarding this individual and we are confident that we have now identified the person controlling this line, and we will be in a position to arrest them in due course. We’ve been targeting those involved in county lines at all levels as part of this operation and we will continue to work closely with other forces and partner agencies to ensure those at the very top of the chain are caught and put before the courts.

“I don’t want the public to think that our work will now end. Our work now continues behind the scenes as we compile files for the Crown Prosecution Service and hopefully put these people before the courts to ensure justice is served.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson added: “I have been hugely impressed this week with the dedication and organisation of officers and staff across a number of departments in tackling this appalling crime. 

“The first intensification phase last year, Op Jetway, delivered some fantastic results, and I am pleased to hear that Op Samphire has had similar success. Officers have made over 60 arrests and over £40,000 worth of class A drugs have been taken off our streets. 

“These statistics send a clear message to the wider community that we take all concerns seriously. I have already received comments from the public commending the activity and thanking officers for their efforts. 

“This work is part of a national drive to tackle county lines but this operation has been fully funded by Wiltshire. We are dealing with this crime head on and I want to reassure the public that work will continue all year round, not just this week. 

“I am determined to make sure that this type of work continues but it can only do so if you, the public, help us stamp out these gangs by using your eyes and ears. I appreciate that initially you might think that no action has been taken immediately after you report concerns or intelligence, but please understand that these operations are complex and take months to plan and gather intelligence. Your intelligence is vital and I urge you to report any concerns to 101 or 999 in an emergency. 

“We have made a good start but let's continue to work together to make sure criminal gangs know they are not welcome in our county."
Message sent by
Katie Bond (Police, Media Officer, Wiltshire)

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