"The impact drugs have on individuals and communities can be devastating - they can destroy lives and vulnerable people are being threatened and exploited, often in their own homes."
The words of Angus Macpherson, Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, following a County Lines week of intensification work by Wiltshire Police focusing on the young and vulnerable who are often targeted by large, unscrupulous drugs' gangs coming from larger cities.
Officers from the Force's Dedicated Crime Team and Community Policing Teams carried out welfare checks on a number of addresses in the county. As a result:
13 vulnerable juveniles were identified and engaged with.
25 vulnerable adults were identified and engaged with.
19 "cuckooed" addresses were visited.
Also, ten men were arrested, a total of over £3,500 in cash, approximately 60 wraps of drugs and a machete were recovered during the national week of action (Monday 21 to Sunday 27 January 2019) lead by the National Crime Agency and National Police Chiefs' Council.
Angus said: "When it comes to County Lines, it is concerning to know that so many vulnerable people can be caught up in what is a destructive cycle - being enticed by promises of gifts, money and perhaps a better life to push drugs and ultimately more misery on other vulnerable people. However, it's heartening to see the good work Wiltshire Police is doing and the positive results it is getting as it continues to work with partners to help reduce harm and prevent crime caused by substance misuse.
"I support a number of partners who work with vulnerable youngsters and adults to help them break the cycle of drugs and ultimately County Lines. They are as follows:
Wiltshire Youth Offending Team (YOT) - Laura Mayes, cabinet member for children's services, said: "Wiltshire YOT has worked closely with police colleagues to develop a Youth Restorative Intervention Panel, which is focussed upon early identification of young people at risk of exploitation or entering the criminal justice system.
"The panel aims to identify appropriate support and intervention for young people and their families, to reduce the pull into criminal behaviours and divert young people away from groups or individuals who may exploit them.
"We are stronger when we work together using all the resources at our disposal to protect our young people.
"These initiatives will help us pinpoint those factors that can lead to problems down the line and ensure we provide that support and guidance to steer young people away from a life of crime."
Mike Grizzell, the manager of Wiltshire's young people's drug and alcohol service, Motiv8, said: "County Lines operations target young and vulnerable people, so it's something we're sadly seeing more and more of at Motiv8.
"We work in partnership with agencies, including the police, to educate and safeguard young people to prevent harm from drugs and/or alcohol and associated activities. This helps to disrupt gang activity and reduces not just the market for drugs but also the number of young people who can be exploited into selling drugs.
"Our service is free and confidential, and we aim to provide a flexible and non-judgemental space for young people to be open about the problems they are facing."
Ben Judd, Senior Operations Manager at Turning Point, said: "IMPACT, Turning Point's Swindon and Wiltshire service, provides support, information and treatment to anyone over 18 with drug and/or alcohol problems. We have been working closely with Wiltshire Police and other local partners to ensure that any victims of the County Lines, that may have a substance misuse problem, are aware of the support that is available to them and fast tracked into treatment if needed.
"If you are worried about your or someone else's drug or alcohol use, call us: Swindon - 01793 328150; Trowbridge - 01225 341520; Salisbury - 01722 343000."
Swindon Borough Councillor Cathy Martyn, Cabinet Member for Housing and Public Safety, said; "It is concerning to see that County Lines is an issue here in Swindon but the work of the police to disrupt the gangs and protect our children is very welcome. The Council is working closely with the police to try and protect children from all types of abuse including criminal exploitation.
"Along with my colleagues in the police I would like to urge every single resident to report to us whenever they feel a child is at risk of abuse or exploitation. There are many different signs of abuse and exploitation and residents can read about them on our website. You can report to us anonymously or find out more by visiting our website www.swindon.gov.uk/dontignoreit or by calling 101 or 01793 466903.
Angus added: "Working with partners is crucial to tackle this problem - but we also need the residents of Wiltshire and Swindon to help us combat drug supply. The police often rely on information from the public to build up an intelligence picture. Please continue to help by reporting any information to 101."