The rise of ‘county lines’ where city drug gangs expand their operation into rural areas is a major problem in south Warwickshire.
That’s the message from the leader of Stratford District Council who said it was indicative of how crime was changing.
Cllr Tony Jefferson (Con, Welcombe) said: “I have to say that I’m really concerned about the ‘county lines’ operations in our district.
“My opinion is that this is one of the greatest threats we actually face in this district because it feeds the drugs habit and through that there is an awful lot of crime and violence.
“The reality now is that the whole crime picture is getting more complex and I think it would be helpful to hold the police to account across all dimensions of crime. I have asked for a report to the Police and Crime Panel (PCP) on ‘county lines’.
Cllr Jefferson was speaking at last night’s [MON] full council meeting in response to a question from Cllr Robert Vaudry (Con Bishopton) who asked how many addition officers would be seen in the district following an increase of nearly 12 per cent in the Warwickshire Police council tax precept.
The council leader said he could not give an actual figure but in an earlier written response he had said: “The rising crime level is one of the reasons why the increase in the precept is required.
“The Police and Crime Panel (PCP) has been assured that the money will be spent on front-line policing.
"Most elected members of the PCP raised the issue of the current lack of visible policing, particularly in rural areas, and the need to ensure communities felt safe and secure.”
Warwickshire Police have recently hailed the success of an operation to combat County Lines, which officers launched in the Stratford area in December 2017.
The successes from Operation Cerberus have included:
• The execution of 14 warrants under the Misuse of Drugs Act and numerous days of partner-supported disruption
• 21 people arrested across 6 differing lines of drug supply linked into Leicestershire, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, London, Coventry and Liverpool.
• Class A drugs seized with estimated street value of over £30,000+
• No reported drug-related serious violence in Stratford district since the inception of Cerberus.
• A number of cases linked to the operation are currently going through the court process.
Insp Simon Ryan, Safer Neighbourhood lead for Stratford, said: "The operation was launched last December, following an incident in the town believed to be linked to county lines.
"Since then, we've been doing a lot of work behind the scenes and I'm pleased to say a recent risk assessment has shown the town has become a lot more hostile to these types of criminals.
"Whilst we have had a huge impact on drugs supply in the Stratford area and some real success around these organised criminal groups, we won't stop focusing on county lines crime in our town.
"Perhaps the main success from these operations is the improved intelligence picture that has allowed us to identify those involved in county lines drug dealing and the vulnerable people they prey on.
"Tackling county lines crime has become part of day-to-day business for the safer neighbourhood team, and we will continue to identify and disrupt organised drug criminality across Stratford district.
"We are using intelligence gained to protect vulnerable people who are targeted by county lines criminals and disrupt the activity of those who continue to try to deal drugs.
"We continue to listen to our communities and aspire to drive out those who are causing the most harm."