The Wokingham Paper

Crackdown: Police raid suspected drugs den opposite Wokingham school

Operation County Lines
Police prepare to raid a property in London Road, Wokingham

A RAID was carried out in Wokingham last week as part of a nationwide police scheme to crack down on county lines.

The raid, which took place on London Road, involved two vans of police officers and a sniffer dog, as well as one van of press representatives.

Following the issue of a drug warrant, at exactly 11am on Tuesday 22, January, armed police officers entered the semi-detached house without using force.

The police were searching for drug related items as well as drug dealers and anyone who is exploited by county lines. There was a concern that weapons and knives were inside.

No arrests were made, and neither drugs nor weapons were found, but police officers did find possible drug paraphernalia.

Some school children were onlookers in the police raid, as were a handful of neighbours.

An eye-witness said that “the police are always looking at that house”.

Police searched the house for approximately an hour-and-a-half.

The raid was part of the National Crime Agency’s week of intensification against established crime organisations.

The week of action by Thames Valley Police led to 106 arrests, £133,000 cash being seized and more than 100 people being safeguarded included 43 children in connection with County Lines drug dealing.

This week was a continuation of its Stronghold campaign which aims to work in partnership to tackle serious and organised crime.

County Lines drug dealing is the name given to drug dealing where organised criminal groups (OCGs) use phone lines to move and supply drugs, usually from cities into smaller towns and rural areas.

Thames Valley Police said that this type of drug dealing exploits children and vulnerable adults who may have mental health or addiction problems. Generally these people are exploited by OCGs to supply and run drugs through violence and intimidation. It’s a very harmful criminal business model which effects many in the Thames Valley.

Nationally organised crime is estimated to cost the UK economy more than £37 billion a year and has a significant impact on communities in the Thames Valley.

In all, 27 warrants were executed, including the London Road one, 156 stop and searches were carried out, and officers took over 2,800 wraps of cocaine, heroin and cannabis off the streets of the Thames Valley.

Additionally officers seized over £133,000 worth of cash and took a number of weapons including machetes and flick knives, and also seized 147 phones linked to County Line drug dealing.

And the force visited 115 addresses where known “Cuckooing” has taken place. Cuckooing is where OCGs target the address of a vulnerable adult, taking over the property that the adult is living in and forcing them to sell drugs out of their home.

Detective Chief Superintendent Richard List said: “This has been a hugely successful week for Thames Valley Police working with the National Crime Agency to tackle County Lines drug dealing.

“Thames Valley Police sees tackling OCGs and county lines as an absolute priority and through our Stronghold campaign we are determined to continue to work closely with our partners including Local Authorities, Schools, Health Professionals and charities, to safeguard children and vulnerable adults.

“I see the fact that we have safeguarded a number of adults and children from being exploited through violence, fear and intimidation by drug dealers this week as a real success.

“However this intensification week is just a continuation of the work Thames Valley Police officers and our partners have been carrying out over the last few years.

“We will continue to act every single day to stop those who seek to damage our communities through this extremely harmful criminal activity.

“It is important for us all to be familiar with the signs that someone might be the victim of drugs exploitation as only with the public’s help can we stop this.

“If you think someone shows sign of mistreatment, or a child seems to travelling long distances or is unfamiliar with the area they are in, then you can report your suspicions to Thames Valley Police on 101 or via our website.

“Engagement with the public is vital as well and we will continue to work together with our communities and partners so that we can protect vulnerable people, bring offenders to justice and make the Thames Valley a safer place.”

“Our positive action is sending a very strong message to criminals – we know from social media that it is welcomed by the law abiding public and that drug dealers and criminals are feeling the pinch. We will be relentless in disrupting criminal gangs and bringing them to justice.”

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