A man from Middlesbrough was among those arrested in a crackdown on “county lines” drug-dealing.

The 15 people collared by police, including a 16-year-old boy, have been arrested since the start of October in a North Yorkshire Police crackdown.

Known as Project Shield, it is targeting those who use children and vulnerable people to sell drugs. It takes its name from the phone lines used to communicate between towns and to advertise drugs for sale.

15 arrests in “county lines” crackdown
15 arrests in “county lines” crackdown (Image: Evening Gazette)

The 21-year-old man from Middlesbrough was arrested in Thirsk on Wednesday on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of class A drugs. He has been released while the investigation continues.

On the same day, officers executed a drugs warrant in the Bell Farm area of York where they found four people, including a 16-year-old boy and 18-year-old man, both from Merseyside, along with a man and woman from York.

All four were arrested on suspicion of drug offences.

And the latest arrest took place on Friday morning in Scarborough when officers executed a warrant at a property in the town.

A 44-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of possessing class C drugs and theft. She remains in police custody.

There have also been arrests in Harrogate and the Filey area.

County lines is organised crime in which drug dealers, often from areas such as Manchester, Liverpool and West Yorkshire, exploit children and vulnerable people. The dealers force them to travel to smaller towns such as Scarborough, York and Harrogate to sell drugs often using violence and intimidation.

Sometimes drug users themselves, or people with mental or physical disabilities, they might be forced to store and sell drugs in a tactic known as “cuckooing”.

15 arrests in “county lines” crackdown
15 arrests in “county lines” crackdown (Image: Evening Gazette)

Detective Chief Inspector Graeme Wright of North Yorkshire Police said: “There has always been drug dealing, but county lines is of particular concern to the police due to the exploitation of vulnerable people and the violence used to control them.

“It is now a major priority for North Yorkshire Police and the arrests over the past few days are just part of our response to the situation in North Yorkshire. They follow around 200 arrests made across the county since April this year.

“The protection of vulnerable people is a key focus and forms part of our overall response which ranges from enforcement and disruption to ongoing welfare checks on victims of cuckooing, safeguarding measures and drug intervention referrals, working jointly with partner agencies.”

He urged local people to help them bring the perpetrators to justice.

“We would also ask people to look beyond the obvious, a person may be a drug user themselves for any number of reasons, but they may also be a victim of violence from people who are using them to sell drugs on their behalf,” he added.

Anyone who suspects a child is being exploited, should call police on 101 or 999 if they are in immediate danger.

Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

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