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The Home Secretary, Priti Patel visited Southend town centre on Saturday January 18 to highlight Essex Police’s ongoing commitment to ending county lines activity in the county.
Ms Patel heard from Op Raptor South about their successful work in the district with Southend Borough Council, and how they safeguard vulnerable children and adults.
She then joined temporary Chief Inspector Ian Hughes, and the town centre team on a foot patrol, where officers demonstrated first-hand the impact of a visible presence when it comes to spotting the signs of drug activity and other suspicious behaviour.
Chief Inspector Hughes said of the visit: “For me, it’s really important to showcase the hard work of our officers and the realities that they face when they go out on patrol, whether that’s in uniform or plain clothes.
“Across Essex, one sighting of a drug deal can lead to a stop search, which can lead to a valuable bit of intelligence, and we can work on unpicking that piece of evidence to eventually topple an entire county line.
“By getting intelligence from members of the public, or having it shared through the hard work we do with our partners like Southend Borough Council, we can work together to stop the vulnerable in our county from being exploited by criminals, whether that’s young people who get sucked into this lifestyle, or people who are sadly dependent on drugs.
“In addition, our Operation Sceptre patrols take place across the county every day to tackle knife crime, which so often goes hand-in-hand with the violent behaviour associated with county lines.
The Home Secretary said: “County lines gangs exploit our children and terrorise communities and we will not stand for it.
“Operations against county lines gangs are showing extremely promising results here in Essex where officers are arresting exploiters and safeguarding children who could be dragged into a life of crime.
“My thanks go out to the hard work and bravery of our fantastic police officers.
“We will continue to support their efforts in confronting this threat with 20,000 new officers.”
For more information about helping someone who may be caught up in county lines or gang activity, you can visit Fearless.org.
To report crime you can call 999 in an emergency or on 101. You can also speak to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or submit a report in complete confidence via their website.