Five people were arrested in Bedfordshire as part of a county lines crackdown which saw more than 100 arrests made across the region.
Those held were suspected of a range of offences. Including drug possession and supply, false imprisonment and human trafficking offences in relation to suspected county lines activity.
Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner, Festus Akinbusoye, said:
“The growing threat, harm and risk posed by county lines to our young people in Bedfordshire is real, and I want to thank our officers and community partners for their joined effort in securing these arrests.
“Our work is not just about arrests and convictions. It is equally about prevention and diversion, which is why we are commissioning and supporting early intervention services to support families, young people and communities in our battle against the criminals who want to exploit our most vulnerable residents.”
Officers visited five hotels and taxi firms in Bedford to raise awareness about the exploitation involved in county lines, how to spot the signs and report concerns.
This included looking out for young people travelling alone and looking lost, as well as stressing the importance of having a conversation and asking questions of potential victims, as not all exploitation is noticeable.
The Children’s Society also delivered a number of awareness raising sessions with railway station staff in the county, as young people exploited by county lines gangs often travel by taxi, train or private hire vehicle.
Detective chief inspector Louisa Glynn said:
“We will continue to make Bedfordshire a hostile place for county lines gangs. It is our job to stamp out organised crime and protect vulnerable and young people from being exploited.
“Organised criminals typically exploit vulnerable adults and young people, using them to deal, store or run drugs through the county, and it is important for us to pursue those responsible.
“We work tirelessly to stop county lines running in and out of Bedfordshire, with proactive patrols, intelligence gathering and in-depth investigations.
“However, it is essential for us to educate and work with our partners, including transport providers and businesses, to reduce exploitation, and educate them on spotting the signs, but we would encourage people to be aware and report anything suspicious.”
One man from Bedfordshire has subsequently been charged with conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and has been remanded into custody.
Others arrested in the county as part of the week of action have since either been bailed or released under investigation, as officers continue with their enquiries.
Across the region over the week:
- 104 arrests were made, largely for drugs supply, drugs possession and weapons offences
- More than 75 people were safeguarded, with officers visiting over a hundred addresses thought to be linked to ‘cuckooing’ – a practice where vulnerable people’s homes are taken over and used for criminal purposes
- Approximately £9,000 of crack cocaine and £9,000 of heroin was seized, along with amounts of cannabis and cocaine
- Nearly £55,000 in suspected criminal cash was recovered
- 13 knives were seized, along with knuckle busters, baseball bats and a baton
- Assets suspected to be linked to criminal activity, including mobile phones, an e-scooter, a car and expensive clothing were also seized
A wide range of tactics were used to target those thought to be involved in county lines-linked crime, which can include things such as violence, criminal and sexual exploitation, modern slavery, and drugs offences.
If you see anything suspicious, please report this information via 101 or through bedfordshire.police.uk/report.
All of this information is fed into police intelligence systems and helps the force build up a picture of organised crime, even if officers do not act on the information straight away.
Alternatively you can report any information anonymously via Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111 or through Crimestoppers-uk.org.
For more information about all forms of exploitation linked to organised crime please visit the Bedfordshire Against Violence and Exploitation campaign website at bavex.co.uk.
The Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit supports people affected by gangs, knife crime and county lines. Visit bedsveru.org for more information.
Officers also carried out engagement work with taxi companies and hotels across the county as part of a wide ranging week of action to tackle the exploitation of children and other vulnerable people by organised criminal gangs.