More than 20 arrests made in Suffolk during national county lines crackdown
PUBLISHED: 14:56 21 May 2019 | UPDATED: 19:14 21 May 2019
A total of 24 people have been arrested in Suffolk as part of a national crackdown on county lines drugs gangs.
It comes following a nationwide police operation to combat gangs funnelling drugs through the capital and larger cities into separate counties.
The national crackdown, co-ordinated by the National County Lines Coordination Centre, a joint venture of the National Crime Agency and National Police Chiefs' Council, took place in Suffolk, Norfolk, Cheshire, Bedfordshire and other areas.
In total, 586 men and women were arrested, with 46 offensive weapons including firearms, swords and a crossbow seized.
More than £300,000 of cash was also seized, as well as £176,780 of cocaine, £36,550 of crack and £17,950 of heroin.
In Suffolk, the threat posed by county lines gangs has been well documented following the death of Ipswich teenager Tavis Spencer-Aitkens.
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Tim Passmore, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, previously described county lines as "the biggest threat facing Suffolk".
National Police Chiefs' Council lead for County Lines, deputy assistant commissioner Duncan Ball, said: "The past week has seen police forces work together across the UK to send a clear message that we will do everything possible to dismantle county lines gangs and protect the vulnerable being exploited by them.
"The large number of arrests and weapons seizures is testament to the hard work and dedication of officers across the country, the NCLCC and the support of key partners like social care, the NHS, schools and the charity sector."
Also noted during the raids was the number of children and young people involved in the underworld, with 364 children safeguarded.
An NSPCC spokesperson for the east of England said: "Young people involved in 'county lines' are often coerced into taking huge risks moving drugs and weapons for the benefit of others, and can face serious punishments and repercussions if caught.
"We must be clear that young people who are criminally exploited are victims of child trafficking, and need access to appropriate support to ensure their safety. Anyone worried about a child's welfare can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.
"We know that children in this situation are often too scared to seek the help they need. Childline is there for them 24/7 for support and advice."