Eight arrested in operation to tackle County Lines

Officers investigating the exploitation of children into County Lines activity have carried out early morning raids in east London.

On Thursday, June 17, officers from Met’s Central Specialist Crime, along with officers from North East Command, led an operation that focused on the disruption of a suspected organised crime network operating in east London.

Four east London addresses were targeted simultaneously, three in Ilford and one in Newham, alongside the production of two men already in prison.

A total of seven men and one woman were arrested, aged between 19 and 56 years old, on suspicion of offences including conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, modern slavery and human trafficking.

Searches at the addresses continue but officers have so far seized a large quantity of cash and Class B drugs.

The investigation was launched in October 2020 after officers identified a ring of people involved in widespread drug supply across east London and Essex. One suspect was identified as operating the activity from inside prison.

The early stages of the investigation led officers to discover children at risk from an organised crime group. The operation has so far resulted in more than 10 children being rescued from the control of the group with this number expected to increase throughout the course of the investigation. They have been appropriately safeguarded and are currently being looked after by specialist officers.

Detective Inspector Laura Hillier, from Specialist Crime, said: “This morning’s activity is a culmination of months of hard work by officers from the Modern Slavery and Child Exploitation unit. The operation has focused on rescuing children and vulnerable people who had no option but to do as they were told through fear of violence from those controlling them.

“We know county lines activity is closely linked to violence that we see on the streets of London and in other parts of the UK. Not only have we rescued children from violence and exploitation, but by disrupting this drug supply line we’ve destroyed the business model of this group and hopefully prevented further criminality.”

All those arrested were taken to east London police stations.

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]