Criminals who transport illicit substances and cash across the country have faced a major clampdown with police operations across the railway.
British Transport Police (BTP) County Lines Taskforce carried out a week-long clampdown with operations taking place across train routes and stations spanning the entirety of the UK – from Aberdeen to as far south as Plymouth.
Police found 20 cuckooed addresses – homes where a drug dealer or a gang takes over a vulnerable adult’s address for criminal purposes – and identified nine vulnerable people, including eight under 18-years-old.
Officers recovered 15 lots of drugs, £6200 in illicit cash, eight weapons, 42 phones and identified two drug lines.
BTP, along with other police forces, made 37 arrests during the almost 100 operations they carried out.
Police Scotland seized thousands in cash and drugs after a major week-long operation on County Lines activity exploiting vulnerable people and children across Scotland.
A key aim of the County Lines Taskforce is to identify and safeguard vulnerable children and adults they said are often exploited by organised criminals to transport drugs and cash between locations, which can be hundreds of miles apart.
James Simmonds-Read, national programme manager at The Children’s Society, said: “It’s vital people look beyond the obvious because exploited children may not always appear upset or vulnerable or behave in the way we would expect victims to.
“We know trauma may cause them to appear angry or aggressive and they are often manipulated into thinking they are making a choice.
“While lockdown meant children being exploited were often hidden from the view of professionals and the public, the easing of restrictions means there are now more opportunities for us all to spot the warning signs.”
Detective superintendent Gareth Williams, BTP County Lines Taskforce lead, said it was critical to make the railway a “hostile environment” for criminals.
He said: “Most importantly, nine vulnerable children and adults encountered by our officers over this seven-day period were identified on the network.
“Alongside The Children’s Society, we’re encouraging everyone to look closer for the signs of child criminal exploitation on the railway, and report any concerns to us.
“These children are victims – exploited by organised criminals to move commodities between locations across the UK.
“If you have any concerns, text us on 61016 or call us on 0800 40 50 40. In an emergency, always dial 999.”
Mr Simmonds-Read said: “Through our Look Closer campaign, we are urging anyone who encounters children in their daily lives – from morning commuters and delivery drivers to hotel and shop staff – to report any concerns that a child might be being exploited to the police.
“Contacting the police with concerns about a child could be a crucial first step in helping a child escape a situation of horrific abuse and unimaginable trauma.”