70 County Lines Drug Rings Smashed by UK Police Operation

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The Metropolitan Police has arrested 230 people and smashed 70 so-called county lines networks of drug dealers during an operation last week.

The Met said on Thursday it had taken more than £4 million ($4.5 million) worth of Class A drugs—which include heroin and cocaine—off the streets of London.

County lines is a term used in the UK to refer to urban drug dealers who supply narcotics to small towns or rural areas, often involving gangs taking over the homes of vulnerable people, from which they deal drugs, a practice known as cuckooing.

But in London it can also refer to networks which are set up in outlying, suburban parts of the city.

Last year the Sentencing Council ordered judges and magistrates to impose stiffer sentences on county lines gangs who cuckooed vulnerable people.

The Met said that in last week’s operation it safeguarded 34 women and 215 boys and adult men, as well as made 234 arrests.

‘Predatory Gangs’ Targeted

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty said the operation had helped to protect “those who are most vulnerable and easily susceptible to predatory gangs.”

He said: “County lines bring misery to communities and devastate the lives of those who are most vulnerable in our society. There is an undeniable link between drugs and violence, so disrupting all routes of drug supply continues to be central to our work in making London safer for everyone.”

The Met said 109 people had been charged with trafficking in Class A or Class B drugs.

It said 70 mobile phones had been recovered, each of which was allegedly being used to run a county lines network, often known as a “line,” in which drug addicts phoned the number to get their supply.

Three individuals from west London had allegedly been running a “line” in Hull, in the north of England, and 11 people had been charged with distributing drugs in Hertfordshire, a rural county just north of London.

The force said a total of 44 kilos of Class A drugs had been seized, which included 8.5 kilos of crack, 31 kilos of powdered cocaine, and four kilos of heroin.

They also confiscated eight kilos of Class B drugs, mainly cannabis, and £334,559 ($376,500) in cash.

The operation led to the seizure of one handgun, two imitation firearms, 34 knives, six machetes, a samurai sword, a meat cleaver, and six knuckle dusters.

The Met also seized 12 cars allegedly used by drug dealers.

The nationwide initiative was part of Operation Orochi, which began in November 2019.

In April 2022 the Met launched a spin-off, Operation Yamata, which was designed to disrupt county lines dealers in London.

The new Commissioner of the Met, Sir Mark Rowley, plans to expand Operation Yamata in a bid to further disrupt drug dealers.

Chris Summers


Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in crime, policing and the law.

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