Police target organised crime group in ‘largest single operation’ to close down county lines

At 4.30am specialist officers gathered for a briefing. Their mission was to dismantle an organised crime group (OCG) responsible for the supply of class A drugs.

The OCG being targeted were also suspected of kidnap and firearms offences.

It’s estimated the gang have been making up to £20,000 a day dealing heroin and crack cocaine in the West Midlands.

In the briefing, police were told there were 12 suspects being sought and that there will be 16 simultaneous raids in Birmingham, Solihull and Essex.

As the suspects were all associates, the raids had to happen at exactly the same moment to avoid any of them getting warning that police were on their way.

That moment was 5am.

Eleven minutes after the briefing started, it was over and officers were heading out in their vans, armed with riot gear.

As the minutes passed, on the police radio, teams reported arriving close to their locations.

Then, over the radio, came the command “strike, strike, strike”.

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With that, the officers moved quickly. They didn’t want any suspects to have time to dispose of phones, drugs or evidence that will incriminate them.

With shouts of “police” they bashed down the front door of a house in east Birmingham. Officers ran round the back to make sure the suspect couldn’t get away.

Within minutes, a man was led out in handcuffs.

Across the morning, nine arrests were made. Police have established one suspect is now abroad. A manhunt is underway for the other two.

The operation is the result of four months of investigation targeting the kingpins of the OCG. It’s the largest single operation to be carried out by the West Midlands County Lines taskforce.

The specialist officers involved focus on so-called county lines dealing, where organised crime groups exploit children and vulnerable adults by recruiting them to move and supply drugs.

The taskforce works with other agencies to safeguard children who have been exploited by the criminals who run the networks.

The Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Craig Guildford, told Sky News: “We’ve had 240 cops on this operation and we’ll be closing down a number of county lines.

“It’ll make a really significant impact on drug supply on the area. Some of these lines have a thousand calls a day. These criminals are making money from this illicit enterprise.

“Usually one of the main dealers will supply other sub dealers and they’ll get younger people involved in this.

“Our approach from start to finish is to do the safeguarding with the younger, vulnerable element and to target the person supplying the lines and part of the arrest operation today is to make sure we do that top to bottom because that will completely remove and dismantle the OCG.

“We’ll take the drugs, we’ll take the money and we intend to take other assets to present that before the court.”