Police have arrested 19 people, protected 11 children, seized 11 vehicles, and taken cocaine worth £82,000 off the streets as part of an operation targeting drugs gangs who prey on vulnerable people in County Durham and Darlington.
During the operation, which took place throughout last week, officers carried out warrants at several properties in the Crook area to hit drugs gangs selling to and exploiting vulnerable people.
Roads policing officers also took to the county’s roads to target vehicles known to be involved in the supply of drugs, while officers in Darlington carried out several arrests in relation to the sale of illegal and over-strength cigarettes and vapes.
Between Monday (February 27) and Friday (March 3) officers arrested 12 men, five women, and two boys on suspicion of several offences, including being concerned in the supply of controlled drugs, possession of counterfeit goods, money laundering, and child neglect.
In addition, police seized £46,000 in cash, £82,000 worth of cocaine, 11 vehicles, several weapons, including a machete and nunchucks, and quantities of illegal vapes and cigarettes.
They also safeguarded 11 children under the age of 18, with further work ongoing with partner agencies to ensure they receive the help and support they need.
In Darlington, officers joined forces with Darlington Borough Council’s trading standards team to arrest four people and secure closure orders on two shops following investigation work into the supply of illicit and over-strength goods, and the sale of vapes to children as young as 12.
The week-long operation formed part of a national crackdown on county lines – a form of exploitation in which criminals groom and manipulate children and other vulnerable people into drug dealing.
It also formed part of Operation Trident – Durham Constabulary’s response to tackling neighbourhood crime.
Chief Inspector Dave Williams, from Durham Constabulary, said: “Drug dealers and those associated in county lines target the most vulnerable, ruining lives and blighting communities.
“I hope this activity sends out a clear message that we will not tolerate criminality of this nature in our force area, and we will take action to dismantle, disrupt and destroy these networks.
“Operations like this are made possible by the support of local people who have come forward with vital pieces of intelligence.
“I would encourage anyone who has any concerns about young or vulnerable people becoming involved in illegal drug activity to come forward and speak to us – information from our communities is key to enable us to take action against this type of crime.”
Please call 999 if a person is in immediate danger, or 101 if it does not require an immediate response. Information can also be submitted online via 101 Live Chat at durham.police.uk.