22 arrests made in crackdown on ‘ruthless’ county lines drug gangs

22 arrests were made in Essex Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

22 arrests were made in Essex Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Knives, class A drugs and thousands of pounds in cash were recovered in raids across Essex in a week-long crackdown on drug gangs.

Police arrested 22 people during the purge on so-called 'county lines' drug dealing networks.

Warrants were carried out at properties in Colchester and Clacton by Essex officers and members of the force's specialist 'Operation Raptor' teams.

Detective Chief Inspector Rob Kirby, of the Serious Crime Directorate, said: "County line gangs are ruthless, exploiting the vulnerable members of our community, from those using drugs to young children who think they offer an attractive lifestyle.

"These gangs sell drugs within our communities without a second thought for the harm they cause.

"They also won't think twice about using violence against rival dealers or those who cannot pay debts and forcing others to perpetrate that violence for them.

"We will continue to work with our partners to tackle these ruthless criminals."

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Drugs worth £60,000 were seized in the operation - including crack cocaine, heroin and 266 cannabis plants.

Weapons were also taken off the street - including knives, a lock saw and extendable police baton, and more than £2,000 in cash thought to be the proceeds of drug-dealing.

Operation Raptor was set up by Essex Police in 2014 to specifically focus on tackling county lines gangs.

DCI Kirby added: "Every day our specialist Operation Raptor teams are out on our streets protecting those at risk and arresting and locking up those who think they can come to our county and deal drugs on our street."

The week of crackdowns, from October 7 to October 13, came as part of a national mission carried out by the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre.

Officers arrested more than 700 people across the UK, and seized nearly half a million pounds worth of drugs.

Those arrested are for a range of offences including producing cannabis, possession with intent to supply drugs, being concerned in the supply of drugs, possession of a knife and aggravated vehicle taking.

If you have information about drug or gang-related crime in your community, call Essex Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.