Response to HMICFRS report into the police and National Crime Agency response to county lines released today
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Cooper said: "While we acknowledge this report and its findings, we have been making great strides in our work to not only tackle county lines here in Wiltshire and Swindon, but in identifying those most vulnerable to this type of criminality.
"We are fully committed to dealing robustly with those involved in county lines and my aim is to make Wiltshire and Swindon a hostile and unsympathetic environment for those who are involved or assist in this type of serious and organised crime.
As part of our efforts to achieve this, at the end of last year, we arrested 63 people in Swindon as part of Operation Jetway which was held as part of a national intensification week to tackle county lines. These arrests were not only the result of planned warrants, but also included proactive work by officers on the back of intelligence gathered to arrest offenders within our communities.
The aim of these arrests was to not just to target the drug gang leaders, but also provide help for vulnerable people who often get caught up in drug dealing - protecting them and hopefully, through excellent partnership working, preventing them from falling back into this way of life. Through the introduction of partnership information sharing forms, we now have a far more effective approach in the sharing of vital information between partners and the police.
"Last year, the Community Safety Partnership here in Wiltshire organised a county lines and modern slavery conference which looked at how we can all work together to protect vulnerable children and adults against drugs gangs and human trafficking.
The knowledge shared at this conference will help to shape the future of how we all work together to combat county lines.
"Our work continues to be as much about protection and prevention as it is enforcement; working with the likes of local councils, schools and colleges, we can ensure that everyone is helping to tackle county lines and protect the vulnerable people within our communities."
Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said: "County lines is an appalling crime and often involves serious violence. All too often, we are seeing vulnerable people being caught up in this type of crime and the force and my office fully recognise that it is not just about enforcement, but education and protection.
"This requires a multi-agency response in order to best reach those who really need our help. That is why protecting the most vulnerable people in society is one of my priorities outlined in the Police and Crime Plan 2017-21.
"The success of Op Jetway last year was testament to the dedication of our officers and staff in dismantling county lines. These statistics send a clear message to the wider community that we take their concerns seriously. I'd continue to urge members of the public to help us stamp out these gangs by using your eyes and ears and reporting any concerns to 101 or 999 in an emergency."