Posted on 22nd October 2019

Cheshire’s police and crime commissioner has visited a Cheshire resident who has fallen victim to county lines drug activity as part of week-of-action to crack down on the crime.

‘County lines’ refers to organised crime groups (OCGs) using mobile phones to extend their illegal drug dealing into new locations. This often sees them using violence, exploitation and intimidation to take over the homes of vulnerable people to use as a base for drug dealing in an activity known as ‘cuckooing’.

PCC David Keane witnessed first-hand the devastating impact cuckooing can have on vulnerable people in the community.

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He visited an individual who lives alone in Runcorn and was targeted by an OCG who forced their way into his home to use it as a secure operating base to deal drugs. Neighbours became concerned about the way he was being treated and reported their concerns to police.

This resulted in action being taken against the offenders and safeguarding being put in place for the victim. Local PCSO Paul Barker now makes regular checks on him to ensure he isn’t targeted again and PCC David Keane accompanied him on his latest visit.

PCC Keane said:

“It was harrowing to see the impact that county lines has had on this vulnerable person in our community.

“In this case, the individual had people close to him who contacted police, which ensured this OCG could be disrupted and that he was given support to move him away from criminality. Sadly, not all vulnerable people in our communities have people looking out for them.

“That’s why it’s important that police use intelligence to breakdown county lines drug activity at its core to stop vulnerable people being exploited and in Cheshire there’s already been a number of successful prosecutions against organised crime groups running county lines operations.

“Cheshire Constabulary is also working with schools to educate our young people, partners and teachers about how to spot the signs of county lines activity and how to stop them getting involved in the first place.”

The PCC’s visit took place during a national week of action to tackle county lines and ensure those vulnerable to exploitation are offered help and support.

In Cheshire, officers made 12 arrests, executed several warrants and visited up to 25 addresses where vulnerable adults could have been targeted or exploited by organised crime groups and provided them with specialist advice and support.

Cash, mobile phones, and weapons were recovered during the week while heroin, crack cocaine and cannabis were also seized by police.

Local Policing Units worked closely with partner agencies throughout the week including neighbouring forces, councils and social care services.