Dozens of suspected members of county lines drug dealing gangs have been arrested in one week across Scotland.
Action by Police Scotland saw class A drugs worth £300,000 seized, as well as more than £220,000 in cash and a quantity of cannabis and tablets.
Police Scotland targeted drugs dealers who exploit vulnerable young people during a national County Lines Intensification Week of activity – between Monday, October 9 and Friday, October 15.
County lines refers to urban-based drug dealers who stretch out into more rural areas, using dedicated phone lines to take orders from customers.
The gangs are notorious for exploiting children to work as drug runners, and taking over the homes of vulnerable people to store illegal substances.
Assistant chief constable Andy Freeburn said: “The harm caused by illegal drugs across Scotland is well-documented and County Lines drug dealers bring nothing but misery to our communities.
“They exploit vulnerable people and groom and threaten young people to become involved in their nefarious activities.
“Over the past week we have worked in partnership with a wide range of national organisations, including the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce, to crack down on those involved in County Lines activity.
“Our message is clear, this is simply not welcome or tolerated in Scotland.”
During the UK-wide initiative – co-ordinated by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) – officers in Scotland safeguarded 17 vulnerable people and engaged with another 650.
Some 373 addresses believed to be used for the purposes of cuckooing were also visited
A total of 25 people were arrested for a variety of offences including; being in possession of a firearm and ammunition, attempted murder and the supply of illegal drugs. In addition 18 warrants were executed.
Cocaine with a street value of over £250,000, heroin with a street value of £33,000 and crack cocaine with a street value of almost £30,000, were seized. Cannabis, a quantity of tablets and over £220,000 in cash were also recovered.
A number of offensive weapons such as machetes, a meat cleaver, a knife and a baseball bat were recovered. An electric bike, two Audi cars and several mobiles phones were seized.
Since the UK-wide county lines programme was launched in 2019, 4,755 lines have been closed, 14,887 arrests made and 7,267 children or vulnerable people referred to safeguarding services.
Justice secretary Angela Constance said: “I welcome the County Lines intensification activity by Police Scotland, which has helped to safeguard a number of individuals. It is essential that we protect our most vulnerable citizens from being exploited by ruthless criminals whose only focus is on increasing their wealth.
“This year, Scotland’s Serious Organised Crime Taskforce published practitioner guidance on the criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults.
“The guidance aims to help those who come into contact with children and vulnerable adults on a regular basis to identify the signs of possible exploitation and what measures should be put in place to protect them.”
ACC Freeburn added: “These hugely positive results during the intensification week are an example of our continuing work in support of Scotland’s Serious and Organised Crime Strategy.
“I would urge anyone who has concerns about County Lines activity or knowledge of who may be involved to contact Police Scotland or alternatively to Crimestoppers anonymously.”
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