01 Apr 2019

MORE than 200 frontline workers have been trained in spotting the signs of County Lines drug dealing, organised crime gangs and extremism.

Social workers, probation officers, health visitors, housing officers and staff who work with potentially vulnerable people received crucial training in identifying and reporting emerging threats while going about their work.

The topics covered included updates on investigations into serious and organised crime, what County Lines drug dealing involves – and who is at risk, radicalisation, and how agencies including police, local authorities and health boards need to work together to combat these threats.

Dyfed-Powys Police Partnership Chief Inspector for Carmarthenshire Jolene Mann said: “It’s important that we build strength within our communities. An effective response to all serious and organised crime depends on relationships with information-sharing between police and partners.

“Serious crime has the potential to invade every community, and it is everyone’s responsibility to tackle it. The people who can prevent serious and organised crime are the ones that live and work in our communities – it’s us, and our public.”

Through their roles, those present are likely to come in contact with young or vulnerable people who could be at risk of exploitation. They were urged to report any small change, or any sign that could point to someone becoming involved in serious and organised crime or being radicalised into extremism.

Ch Insp Mann explained that Dyfed-Powys Police was aware of a number of organised crime gangs in Carmarthenshire. The majority of which have been disrupted and the offenders sentenced, or no current intelligence exists to suggest they are still operating.

She said: “As part of one operation, we identified a Birmingham-based group of males who were supplying heroin and crack cocaine in Llanelli. They were cuckooing vulnerable people’s properties to deal drugs from – this means they were looking for vulnerable people, and effectively taking over their home to deal drugs.

“At the end of last year, 24 people were arrested and have either been jailed or are awaiting sentence.

“You might have seen headlines about County Lines in the national media, and you will continue to see more and more because we are making more arrests and putting more people through court.”

It was explained that dealers and users from the area have teamed up with gangs from Birmingham, rather than attempting to continue their own criminal business.

“My plea is that you are on high alert for anything unusual or out of place,” Ch Insp Mann said.

“We need to work together. Connect the dots, submit the intelligence, stop the gangs.”

The training sessions were organised the Safer Communities Partnership, with inputs from Dyfed-Powys Police, Crimestoppers, Carmarthenshire County Council and the Regional Organised Crime Unit. The Partnership is part of the Carmarthenshire Public Services Board (PSB). 

Chairman of the Safer Communities Partnership, Councillor Cefin Campbell, said: “The Safer Communities Partnership is very pleased with the response we had to these multi-agency briefing sessions.

“Our aim is to ensure we raise awareness of these issues and that staff know how to refer or report any concerns they may have.”

County Lines is an emerging national issue, where organised crime groups from urban areas such as London, Liverpool and Birmingham put children and vulnerable adults between themselves and the risk of detection by manipulating them into carrying and selling drugs.

‘Runners’ will be sent across county boundaries to areas like Llanelli, Newtown, and Haverfordwest to deliver and/or sell Class A drugs at the other end of the line.

You can report suspicious activity or concerns about the selling and taking of drugs in your community by calling 101, or reporting online. To report information anonymously, call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Learn more about the issue and how to spot the signs someone is vulnerable to County Lines exploitation here.