The South West is #NoPlaceforDrugs

Antisocial behaviour, drugs, road safety and violence are the issues that matter most to residents of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and where people want more police action. It is highlighted in every survey I do and by people I meet.

As a team in the South West the five Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners and their respective forces have been working together on the shared ambition of making the region no place for drugs through a series of joint operations known as Operation Scorpion.

Cities and towns including Plymouth, Falmouth, Exeter and Torquay were the focus of a number of phases of this operation, which has concentrated efforts on the users in bars and nightclubs whose ‘harmless fun’ funds a supply chain dominated by violent and exploitative criminals. Along with a focus on cannabis farms, identifying an old nightclub in Torquay with a huge grow in plain sight.

We have aimed to garner the resources deployed on this issue and it has included officers and staff from five forces, Ministry of Defence police, the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit and British Transport Police.

Working together we wish to send a strong message to both the criminal fraternity and law abiding public that the South West is a hostile place for drug dealers and anti-social drug users. We want to build confidence in people who know who drug dealers are to report anonymously and get their drugs off the streets.

You may have heard of ‘county lines’ drug dealing which is one of the methods used to distribute drugs to the region from places such as London, Liverpool and the West Mids. This is where local people, who are sometimes vulnerable or exploited, are set up as dealers in a community and supplied by others from urban locations. Some of these are our children.

Police have become experts at identifying this type of activity, targeting county lines dealers and looking after those they try to exploit.

Last year 14 people were jailed at Exeter Crown Court for their roles in a county lines drug dealing operation. The group had been involved in bringing class A drugs from Liverpool to distribute around the South West.

Op Harbinger was the culmination of more than a year’s worth of detective work and I would like to congratulate the team on this work.

Tackling county lines is an enterprise we should all be involved in. Police need us to play a part in looking out for and reporting signs of county lines activity in our neighbourhoods. So what do you need to look out for?

An increase in visitors and cars to a house or flat or new faces appearing, new and regularly changing residents, maybe with non-local accents, a change of residents’ demeanour, changes in the way young people dress, and unexplained expensive possessions are all signs that county lines dealing might be taking place.

If you recognise any of these signs or have information you would like to pass on anonymously, you can speak to the independent charity Crimestoppers 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year on 0800 555 111 or use the charity’s non-traceable online form. 

They will never ask for your name or contact details and the phone call or online report will never be traced. 

By working together across the South West, we will disrupt the drugs market and ensure less of our community is affected by the tragic harm that is caused to the individual user and their families.