Above: Crimestoppers, Cheshire police and Cheshire PCC launch the County Lines campaign. From left to right: Gary Murray, regional manager at Crimestoppers, Superintendent Peter Crowcroft and PCC David Keane
A campaign highlighting the dangers of County Lines drug operations in Cheshire has been launched.
The month-long campaign will educate the public on the signs to look out for, which will make them aware of the pain and suffering that criminals from other areas inflict on Cheshire communities and the damage that they cause.
County Lines is where criminals from major cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and London expand their drug networks to other areas, bringing with it serious criminal behaviour such as violence, abuse and exploitation.
This is having an impact on urban and rural communities across Cheshire and also on vulnerable children and adults who are recruited from large cities elsewhere to work locally. They transport cash and drugs to Cheshire whilst the criminals hide behind them, becoming more difficult to find.
They often set up a base for a short period of time and take over the home of someone vulnerable (known as ‘cuckooing’) and use adults and children to act as drug runners.
The social media campaign will run throughout Cheshire targeting 13 areas where County Lines is considered an issue, including Runcorn, Winsford, Chester, Ellesmere Port, Alsager, Crewe, Middlewich, Nantwich, Northwich, Knutsford, Sandbach, Warrington and Congleton.
The campaign will use social media posts to help raise awareness of County Lines, directing people to the Crimestoppers website to report any suspicious activity.
Last year, Crimestoppers received 2,956 pieces of information from the public in Cheshire, up from 2,672 the previous year. Much of this was regarding drug dealing and supply.
Law enforcement in Cheshire has made significant arrests of people involved in this type of activity and whilst many vulnerable adults and children continue to be coerced into these activities, many have been safeguarded.
Gary Murray, North West regional manager for the charity Crimestoppers, said: “To protect our communities and the most vulnerable in our society, I’m urging anyone with information about County Lines or drug dealers exploiting others to contact our charity. We understand that for some people, speaking directly to the police is a step too far due to fear or reprisals. That’s why Crimestoppers, as an independent charity, is here to help.
“We need to ensure that when gangs set up their drug operation here, that your information helps to get them removed. At Crimestoppers we guarantee you stay 100% anonymously. Always.
“Our UK Contact Centre is open 24/7 and available on 0800 555 111, or you can use our anonymous online form at Crimestoppers-uk.org. No one will ever know you contacted us. Together we can help keep our communities safe.”