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Thirty-four people were arrested and weapons, cash and illegal drugs seized during a county lines week of action in Cheshire.

The crackdown was part of a National Crime Agency initiative to disrupt and protect communities from serious and organised crime in Cheshire.

Officers also executed 12 warrants and visited up to 33 addresses in Cheshire where vulnerable adults could have been targeted or exploited by organised crime groups were provided with specialist advice and support.

It included a number of men and women in Crewe and Middlewich area of South Cheshire.

Up to £7,000 in cash, mobile phones, knives including a sword disguised as a cane, a knuckleduster and an imitation handgun were recovered during the week while heroin, cocaine, cannabis and Spice were also seized by police.

Local Policing Units worked with partner agencies including neighbouring forces, councils and social care services.

And officers visited schools and colleges to make them aware of how to spot the signs of criminal exploitation.

Those signs include:

A child or young person going missing from school or home and travelling to market towns or rural areas
Self-harm or a significant change in emotional wellbeing or their behaviour
The use of drugs and alcohol
Having more money, new expensive clothes or accessories which they are unable to account for
Having multiple mobiles, tablets or SIM cars and receiving an excessive amount of texts and calls
Forming relationships and meeting with controlling or older people or groups
Carrying weapons
Significant decline in school results/performance
Lone children from outside of the area

The operation also safeguarded a number of vulnerable adults who are believed to have been a victim of ‘cuckooing’ – when organised criminals force their way into a person’s home to use as a base to deal drugs.

Acting Assistant Chief Constable Matt Burton said: “Officers across Cheshire have once again carried out some fantastic work to pursue serious and organised criminals and help protect some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“While we regularly take action to disrupt county lines, the weekly focus enables us to go that extra mile by informing the public of what we’re doing, how they can look out for the signs of vulnerability and to report it.

“Keeping vulnerable adults and children safe is our priority in Cheshire. As well as carrying out warrants, making arrests and seizing drugs, it is also incredibly important the public are informed on how they too can help.”

The operation was part of a national focus on county lines drug activity co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).

A county line is operated by an organised crime group (OCG) who use a mobile phone, known as a ‘line’ or a ‘graft’ to extend their criminal activity business into new locations – usually from a city into rural areas.

Acting Asst Chief Con Burton added: “What can often be forgotten is that there are victims at the centre of county lines.

“Vulnerable adults and children are often targeted to deliver and deal drugs on a criminal’s behalf after being criminally exploited, coerced and manipulated.

“Victims are fearful of the gang’s reputation and left feeling frightened and bullied as they become trapped into their world with no way out. They will often end up becoming reliant on the organised crime group who control their lives.

“This is why we talk to school children and teachers as well as visit businesses and speak with local residents to warn of the dangers to help stop them being taken advantage of.

“I want to take this opportunity to urge residents to keep spotting the signs of vulnerability, keep an eye out if they feel something isn’t right and to report it to us on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Information can also be provided by email https://cheshire.police.uk/contact/general-enquiries

Arrests made South Cheshire:

A 17-year-old boy from Middlewich was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply cocaine and heroin and has been released under investigation.
A 23-year-old man from Middlewich was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply heroin and has been released under investigation.
A 20-year-old man from Liverpool was arrested for being concerned in the supply of heroin and cocaine and has been released under investigation.
A 21-year-old man from Kirkby was arrested for being concerned in the supply of heroin and cocaine and has been released under investigation.
A 43-year-old man from Crewe was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class B and has been released under investigation.
A 40-year-old from Crewe was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class B and has been released under investigation.
A 29-year-old man from Crewe was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class B and has been released under investigation.
A 35-year-old woman from Crewe was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply crack cocaine and heroin and has been released under investigation.
A 32-year-old man from Crewe was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply crack cocaine and heroin and has been released under investigation.

Lewis Newton, 20, of Derrington Avenue, in Crewe, has been charged with possession with intent to supply cocaine and heroin.

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