56 County Lines drugs operations shut down in Wirral last year

More than 200 drug networks across Merseyside were shut down in County Lines operations by police last year.

The highest proportion of those were in Liverpool, with 76 operations busted. A further 56 were located in Wirral, and 53 in Sefton.

New data released by Merseyside Police has revealed the extent to which the force has gone in a bid to break up drug dealing on a local and national level.

County lines is the name given to drug dealing where organised criminal groups use phone lines to supply drugs, usually from cities into smaller towns and rural areas.

Merseyside Police leads nationally on the response to County Lines through Project Medusa.

Chief Superintendent Matt Smith told a police scrutiny panel led by Emily Spurrell, Merseyside police and crime commissioner, how the force had moved to tackle drugs being transported up and down the country. He said 419 lines had been closed across the UK in 2022-23, with 219 of those in Merseyside alone.

A total of 15 operations were broken up in St Helens and 19 in Knowsley.

Ch Supt Smith said this surpassed targets set by the Home Office of 400. He said, “The impact of all of that is, not just the closure of the line but the prevention of the line reopening for drugs to continue to be sold again.”

The senior officer said within the lines shut down, the force achieved a 100% arrest-to-charge rate with all charges leading to a conviction. New targets have been set by the Home Office to break a further 280 lines with a focus on modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

Earlier this year, the force’s dedicated task force for county lines teamed up with colleagues from the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU) to make 31 arrests and seize a large amount of drugs, cash, and bladed weapons.

During County Lines intensification week in March, Merseyside Police made 69 arrests in the region with more than £250,000 seized and six County Lines shut down.

Additionally, 481 wraps of crack cocaine, 386 wraps of heroin, 65 wraps of cocaine, 2kg of cannabis and 500,000 illicit Class B and Class C prescription tablets were recovered during warrants and other activity across Merseyside.

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