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Dozens arrested during County Lines week of action in Sussex

Sussex Police has arrested dozens of people, seized £10,000s of Class A drugs and safeguarded over 40 vulnerable people in a seven-day crackdown on County Lines drug dealing.

Forces across the country joined a national County Lines Intensification Week from Monday, October 3, to Sunday, October 9, focusing on disrupting drug dealing lines, catching perpetrators and protecting people at risk of exploitation.

County lines drug dealing is when criminals from large urban areas deal drugs in smaller areas across county borders. Drug users contact them through phone numbers – known as deal lines.

The practice is typified by violence and the exploitation of vulnerable people and children, who are often coerced into dealing drugs on behalf of gangs.

Sussex Police works tirelessly all year round to combat County Lines, but this week of action serves to shine a spotlight on the issues facing communities across the county.

Some notable figures from the seven days include:

  • 11 county drug lines shut down
  • 52 people arrested
  • Around 1,500 wraps of Class A drugs seized
  • Around £16,000 of cash seized
  • 20 weapons removed
  • 41 adults safeguarded
  • 2,371 pupils engaged with during 18 school visits

One hugely damaging element of County Lines is cuckooing, where drug gangs use a vulnerable person’s home as a base for their drug operations, often through violence, intimidation and exploitation.

Throughout the week, Sussex Police and its community partners carried out cuckoo checks on 61 individuals deemed to be at risk of the practice.

Officers also engaged with 43 hotels and B&Bs – which are often used as bases for drug operations – and 68 taxi firms and drivers, to highlight how to spot and report signs of County Lines.

Some localised highlights from different divisions include:

Brighton and Hove

More than 1,100 wraps of crack and heroin were seized in Brighton and Hove, alongside 17 arrests and dozens of safeguarding checks alongside housing providers, probation officers and community organisations.

One operation saw the controller of a significant County Line – the Oscar/Boss line – convicted of multiple drug and weapon offences.

On Wednesday (October 5) Otis Watson, 30, of Ashenden Road in Guildford was arrested by officers from the Neighbourhood Policing Team and Tactical Enforcement Unit.

A search found he was in possession of Class A drugs which officers suspect were to resupply his dealers and the mobile phone controlling the Oscar/Boss County Line.

Officers searched a property linked to him in Hove and found around 1,000 wraps of Class A drugs worth around £20,000, over £2,000 in cash and knuckle dusters.

Watson was charged with four counts of possession with intent supply Class A drugs, possession of a Class B drug and possession of an offensive weapon in a private place.

He was remanded and, at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Sunday (October 9), he pleaded guilty to all charges. He will be sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on November 3.

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East Sussex

Officers in East Sussex arrested 22 people during the intensification week and alongside partners carried out a huge amount of engagement work, which included taking a knife arch to a local school where 1,500 children were educated about the dangers of County Lines.

Two vulnerable adults were also safeguarded after 17 cuckoo checks.

On Sunday (October 9), officers from the Tactical Enforcement Unit conducted a warrant at a property on St Margarets Road, St Leonards.

As they entered, a man was seen throwing something behind a fridge – later revealed to be a significant quantity of crack cocaine worth around £2,000.

Two men aged 20 and 28 and a 48-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of being concerned with the supply of a Class A drug and released under investigation while enquiries continue.

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West Sussex

Twelve people were arrested across West Sussex, 116 wraps of Class A drugs were seized and more than £11,000 in cash.

Fifteen school visits also saw 790 young people engaged with and educated on the dangers of County Lines.

Three county deal lines were also shut down and all of their users – almost 2,000 – were sent text messages advising police had taken over the line and signposting towards drug support services.

More information on that activity can be found here – https://www.sussex.police.uk/news/sussex/news/news/four-charged-with-class-a-drug-supply-in-west-sussex-county-lines-crackdown/

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Detective Superintendent Stuart Hale said: “County Lines drug dealing is a devastating practice that destroys lives and spreads harm around our communities.

“County Lines Intensification Week was an opportunity to highlight some of the relentless work carried out by Sussex Police and our partners all year round.

“The week took dozens of dangerous individuals off the streets and resulted in the seizures of £10,000s of harmful substances, weapons and illegally gained cash.

“But equally important is the work that goes on to safeguard those vulnerable people who fall victim to drug dealers – young and old, coerced into dealing drugs or surrendering their homes as bases for illegal activity.

“Police and community partners remain steadfast in their commitment to protecting these vulnerable people and bringing perpetrators to justice.”

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