87 arrests during Merseyside Police county lines crackdown

Merseyside Police continued its crackdown on county lines during the national County Lines Intensification Week (9 – 15 October), aimed at putting criminals on the back foot.

The force made 87 arrests, seized 14kg of Class A and B drugs, 1000 ecstasy tablets, 361 cannabis plants, and more than £112,000 of cash.

Project Medusa, funded by the Home Office, is a Merseyside-led initiative set up to tackle county lines drug dealing and the criminal exploitation of young people and vulnerable adults.

During the week, Project Medusa officers, alongside local policing teams, worked with partners and other forces from across the UK to dismantle and disrupt criminal gangs.

Activity included warrants, safeguarding visits to vulnerable people and joint operations to other force areas including Jersey, North Wales, Cheshire and Greater Manchester.

Dedicated officers continue to work tirelessly to compile covert intelligence and disrupt those responsible – resulting in 15 drug lines being identified and closed during the week alone.

The week of action resulted in:

  • 87 arrests
  • 15 drug lines identified and closed
  • 14kg of drugs seized (including crack cocaine, heroin, cocaine and cannabis), 1000 ecstasy tablets and 361 cannabis plants seized and destroyed
  • More than £112,000 of cash seized
  • 36 weapons seized, including 12 axes and six knives
  • 63 people identified as being at risk of exploitation and safeguarded

Since 2019, Project Medusa officers have closed 1,101 county lines; arrested 2,421 people for various offences including drug supply, firearms offences and money laundering; and identified 1,256 vulnerable adults and children who have been referred to safeguarding services.

Inspector Stephen Morris said, “Our involvement in this national week of action is just a snapshot of the work we do all year round. The results are testament to the effective joint working between forces and partners.

“The arrests and seizures made should act as a stark warning to county lines offenders – you will be caught and be put before the courts.

“We are passionate about the work we are doing in this area and are nationally recognised for the impact we have had on county lines both within Merseyside but also in other parts of the country. My message to those involved in county lines is clear – we have a zero-tolerance approach to serious organised crime, and we are relentless in our pursuit of those involved.”

During the week, Merseyside Police also worked shoulder to shoulder with social workers, local safeguarding partners and leading child exploitation charities to safeguard 63 people at risk of being exploited by gangs.

Officers also engaged with more than 550 young people during the week, offering educational sessions to schools, community centres and care homes, encouraging people to spot the signs of exploitation and signpost support services.

One aspect of Project Medusa is Operation Stonehaven, which has supported more than 20,000 young people since 2019 through 60 unique partnerships, aimed at diverting young people away from crime and the risk of exploitation by criminal gangs.

Jimmy Belmar, lead for Operation Stonehaven at Merseyside Police said, “Intimidation, fear, coercion, and threats of violence are just some of the realities for a child, or vulnerable person, being exploited by criminals involved in county lines.

“A key priority of Operation Stonehaven is to identify and safeguard children being exploited in this way and connect them to partners and agencies who can offer support and help. We will not allow this exploitation to happen in our communities and we will continue to work hard to protect vulnerable adults and children and ensure Merseyside is a safe place.

“We thank the public who share information with us about drug dealing or any vulnerability they see, this intelligence is vital to protecting our communities. It’s important everyone who cares for or knows a young and/or vulnerable person can spot the warning signs. You can visit our website to learn more and tell us if something doesn’t feel right.”

James Simmonds-Read, National Programme Manager at The Children’s Society said, “Making sure that police forces and other experts can detect the signs of exploitation in young people is vital. These signals can be subtle so it’s encouraging to see that more young victims can now get the help they urgently need. Our #LookCloser campaign, bolstered by the support of Merseyside Police is pivotal in raising awareness of these issues.

“As the nights draw darker, we urge members of the public and businesses to stay vigilant. Spotting signs of child exploitation, especially in settings such as fast-food joints, taxis and hotels is crucial. Any young person can be targeted, anywhere, but these places are often used to target, move, and abuse young people.”

You can report any concerns to police on 999 if a crime is in progress, via 101, or our social media desk via Twitter @MerPolCC.

You can also pass information via Crimestoppers anonymously, on 0800 555 111 or via their online form at: https://crimestoppers-uk.org

Image: Merseyside Police

Why not follow birkenhead.news on Facebook, Twitter, and Threads? You can also send story ideas or letters to the editor to news@birkenhead.news