Priti Patel MP, the Home Secretary, has praised the impact of a nationwide crackdown on county lines drug dealing by forces including British Transport Police (BTP).
County Lines drug dealing is the movement of drugs by gangs from cities into smaller towns, often exploiting and intimidating children or vulnerable adults into couriering the drugs, or the cash it generates, between locations.
Funded by the Home Office, BTP created a dedicated County Lines Taskforce in December 2019 It is the only force which tackles the issue nationally, carrying out operations at train stations and on train routes across England, Wales and Scotland.
Home Office funding was also given to Metropolitan Police, West Midlands Police and Merseyside Police to set up their own County Lines teams.
Combined, the forces have carried out 657 arrests since November, with BTP accounting for 276 (42 per cent) of those arrests.
The force has also seized £63,000 in drugs, £108,000 in cash, and removed 38 weapons from the rail network.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “I am determined to roll up county lines drugs gangs and stop them from terrorising our towns and exploiting our children.
“I have seen first-hand the important work the police are doing to tackle county lines, and these impressive results show just how much of an impact our investment is having.
“The police will always have my backing in tackling this threat and, crucially, protecting victims.”
Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams, who leads the BTP Taskforce, said: “Our Taskforce is in a unique position. We carry out operations nationally across England, Wales and Scotland and have built a strong understanding of how this issue is impacting communities.
“These operations have also helped us determine that younger people, when compared to other forces, are exploited on the railway network. A large portion of our arrests are under the age of 18 and more than half are under 24 years of age.
“The main aims of this Taskforce are to safeguard these young people, pull them away from crime, and remove this type of criminal activity away from the railway network.
“The help of the railway industry here has been absolutely invaluable. As we operate, they’ve been training their staff to spot signs of exploitation and the intelligence they have provided has been used to inform where we target next.”