Police strike hammer blow to county lines gangs by making 53 arrests and seizing hoard of weapons and drugs during raids in and around London
- Metropolitan Police carried out raids over six weeks in London and South East
- Total of £63,000 in cash and 320 grams of crack cocaine seized with weapons
- Officers identified individuals involved in the organisation of 33 county lines
Fifty-three people have been arrested and a hoard of weapons were seized following a five-month undercover investigation into a drug dealing network thought to be responsible for dozens of county lines.
Operation Trigona targeted individuals involved in 33 organised crime networks which supplied Class A drugs from south-east London.
A total of 47 men and six women, aged 16 to 48, were held by the Met during early-morning raids in Greenwich, Bexley, Kent and the Thames Valley over the last six weeks.
Around £63,000 in cash, 320 grams of crack cocaine, 150 grams of heroin and a quantity of cannabis were seized in the raids, alongside firearms, knuckledusters and knives.
Rolex watches worth £40,000 and two cars with a combined value of £45,000 were also found in Operation Trigona.
Metropolitan Police seized weapons including four guns, knuckledusters and knives during the five-month Operation Trigona
Raids were carried out in Greenwich and Bexley, south-east London, as well as Kent and the Thames Valley in Operation Trigona
The major operation identified those involved in 33 county lines, a gang model which sees young and vulnerable people used as couriers to move drugs and cash between cities and smaller towns.
The suspects arrested were held on suspicion of various offences including possession of firearms and ammunition; possession of offensive weapons; possession of criminal property; possession with intent to supply class A and B drugs, and supply of class A and B drugs.
Two young people who are believed to have been exploited by the gangs have been safeguarded as a result of the investigation.
Operation Trigona was led by officers from the South East Proactive Unit, alongside those from the Met’s Territorial Support Group (TSG) and Dog Support Unit.
Around £63,000 in cash, 320 grams of crack cocaine, 150 grams of heroin and a quantity of cannabis were also seized in the investigation
A total of 47 men and six women, aged 16 to 48, were held during raids carried out over six weeks, including warrants in Greenwich and Bexley, south-east London, as well as Kent and the Thames Valley
In June, Met Police chiefs waging a war against drug gangs in London revealed they had cut off 87 county lines distribution routes and jailed 18 drug dealers as part of its £1.1million Operation Orochi.
A further 1,300 county lines suspects have also been charged for violent offences, including 24 murders, since the crackdown was launched last year.
County lines: The centralised drug distribution system which minimises risks for dealers while exploiting the vulnerable
County lines is where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries.
The drugs are usually transported by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs.
It involves a centralised mobile phone, often in a major city, such as London, which is used to take the orders of drugs, as well as send out mass texts offering drugs for sale, in an area outside the city – such as the home counties.
The mobile phone is called the ‘county line’.
Local dealers who are part of the gang then distribute the drugs in that area.
A common feature in county lines drug supply is the exploitation of young and vulnerable people.
The dealers will frequently target children and adults – often with mental health or addiction problems – to act as drug runners or move cash so they can stay under the radar of law enforcement.
When county lines are set up in an area there are often increases in violence and weapons-related crimes.
Source: The National Crime Agency
The force, which was recently handed a £5million war chest by the Home Office to aid in their battle against the violent drug gangs, promised at the time to destroy another 210 supply lines over the next 12 months.
Detective Inspector Jo Gresham, who led Operation Trigona, said: ‘Operations like this one, which disrupt county lines drug supply and dealing, and target the criminal exploitation of vulnerable people, are vital because we know that this type of criminality drives a high proportion of violent crime in London.’
She said a ‘huge amount’ of investigative work was carried out ahead of the early-morning raids which demonstrated the Metropolitan Police’s ‘zero-tolerance approach to drug supply.’
‘This operation was also aimed at identifying and cracking down on the exploitation of children, who can be manipulated into carrying out criminal acts,’ Ms Gresham added.
‘During this operation we have identified two young people who were victims of this type of exploitation, who we are now safeguarding and working with to give them the support they need. ‘
The success of Operation Trigona comes after police last month shut down 10 per cent of phone lines used by county lines drugs gangs in a crackdown which saw more than 1,000 arrests and £1.2million worth of narcotics seized.
All 43 police forces in England and Wales, along with the National Crime Agency and British Transport Police, took part in operations in September which saw 18 guns seized along with more than £500,000 in cash.
Officers rescued 30 vulnerable people as part of the investigations, they have been brought back to London and are receiving specialist support.
In London alone, 60 weapons were seized, 85 vulnerable adults and children were made safe and 255 people were arrested.
Around £120,000 worth of drugs were seized in Capital, including £60,000 of prescription medicine, £21,000 of cocaine and £40,000 of heroin.
Some 102 ‘deal lines’, linked to unique phone numbers dialled by users to buy drugs, were shut down.
It amounts to at least a tenth of the estimated 800 to 1,100 active county lines currently believed to be operating in the UK.
The success of Operation Trigona comes after police last month shut down 10 per cent of phone lines used by county lines drugs gangs in Britain. Pictured: A raid in September
In the previous operation in September, 18 guns were found nationwide along with knives and a stab proof vest in London, other weapons seized included machetes
The latest operation also comes after officers reviewed data showing those involved in County Lines criminality collected by the National County Lines Coordination Centre (NCLCC).
The data was analysed against the Met’s crime recording systems.
It showed that more than 1,300 individuals linked to County Lines have been charged with charged with approximately 2,000 violent offences in the capital in the financial year from 2019 to 2020.
Among the offences were 24 murders, 270 robberies, over 200 weapons offences, including 23 of possessing a firearm with intent, and nearly 200 drug trafficking offences.
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