Wiltshire isn't a soft target for County Lines gangs - the county's PCC has warned after an intensification operation saw 15 lines disrupted in Swindon and 14 people charged with drugs offences.
PCC Philip Wilkinson has praised the work of Wiltshire Police's specialist Fortitude Team for their hard work which saw thousands of pounds worth of drugs seized, more than £20,000 cash recovered and 25 people arrested.
Fortitude officers were supported by officers and staff from the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit, the Force's Drone Unit, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Community Policing Teams based in Swindon.
Intelligence-led operations saw several properties across Swindon targeted resulting in 21 men and 4 women, aged between 17 and 54-years-old arrested. Fourteen of those arrested have now been charged with drugs offences.
Hostile environment for criminals
PCC Philip Wilkinson said: “Wiltshire’s communities deserve to be free from the scourge of County Lines gangs. These unlawful and despicable people decimate communities, prey on vulnerable people and peddle drugs on the streets of our towns - destroying lives.
“This proactive, robust, response to the ever-increasing issue of County Lines by Wiltshire Police, and supported by the NCA, is to be applauded.
“We want the organised crime gangs who coordinate this loathsome trade to get the message: Wiltshire isn’t a soft target - if you come here to deal drugs, and abuse our residents, you will be found and we will deal with you.
“Our recent operations closed 15 different lines established by London-based dealers. In the process, we have seized hundreds of packets of drugs which won’t hit Wiltshire’s streets and several dangerous weapons that can’t kill or maim our residents.
“Now I want to ensure those tentacles of crime can’t infiltrate back into our communities. I will work with the local authorities, and other partners, to develop a multi-agency approach which will create a hostile environment for all criminals and one which makes our residents not only feel safe but to actually be safer.
“Only by looking at the problems holistically: causes, symptoms and consequences of crime, will we continue to make a difference and our communities will start to feel safer.”
Protecting those at risk
The intensification work was part of Project Optimise – Wiltshire Police’s approach to serious and organised crime and the force urged local communities to step forward with information to help tackle serious and organised crime.
Det Insp Megan Kenzie, head of the Fortitude Team in Swindon, said: “Collaborating with colleagues from other areas of policing as well as partners, this is a good example of successful joint working where we are committed to tackling drugs gangs and protecting those at risk of being exploited by these groups.
“We know that the public have real concerns about the impact of County Lines in their communities, however, I hope they should feel reassured by the ongoing efforts and hard work by officers and staff across the Force in tackling this type of organised criminality.
“This is a fantastic result: targeting and disrupting 15 County Lines in a very short period of time."