Thousands of pounds worth of drugs have been taken out of circulation in January alone, as a multi-agency partnership in Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot continues to fight back against county lines criminality.
Partners from the two local authorities, housing providers, drug support agencies and British Transport Police have joined forces with South Wales Police’s Western division as part of Operation Cristo, which launched at the beginning of January.
For the first time, the dynamic approach has seen partners dial in to briefings to share intelligence, enabling the police to act more promptly and ensuring the right support services are in place for those affected at the right time.
Operation Cristo focuses jointly on enforcement – disrupting and bringing to justice organised gangs who travel to the area to sell large amounts of drugs – and safeguarding those individuals who are exploited by them.
During January, the following has been achieved:
· Twenty-six warrants executed;
· Thirty-six arrests for offences including possession of Class A and B drugs with the intent to supply, possession of Class A and B drugs, possession of offensive weapons, and breaches of court orders;
· Large amounts of heroin and crack cocaine seized, including £25,000-worth from one address in Morriston;
· Two cannabis factories discovered and dismantled;
· Firearm seized;
· Numerous stop-searches carried out at local train stations with the assistance of British Transport Police and passive drugs dogs;
· Several people tested with the drug itemiser at local train stations, with the assistance of the Safer Swansea Partnership;
· Multiple cuckoo-watches and safeguarding visits carried out by our neighbourhood officers as well as housing officers;
· A number of cannabis street warnings issued;
· Significant amount of awareness-raising about county lines carried out in conjunction with officers and partners, and with the assistance of our Student Volunteers and Police Youth Volunteers
Chief Inspector Mathew Lewis, Operation Cristo lead, said: “We have always worked closely with our partners, but this new approach has really improved those links and enabled all agencies to be better informed and better equipped to respond to concerns, suspicions and intelligence.
“County lines criminality has a wide-reaching impact, and as well as working to rid our communities of drugs and the violence which often goes hand in hand with drug-dealing, we also have a responsibility to protect those who find themselves exploited by these gangs.
“Our partners have been invaluable in this area as they have been able to flag up vulnerable tenants and raise suspicions and concerns, but also ensure support services are in place for those affected. It’s a truly holistic approach, from which we are already seeing benefits.
“This is not a one-off; the public can expect to see further patrols, warrants and multi-agency action in the coming weeks and months. Tackling county lines is a priority for South Wales Police and here in Western our partners are equally committed to working together to fight it.”
Jamie Harris, Service Manager at Barod, said: “This approach has been positive for all agencies involved, enabling us to build on existing links and improving opportunities for early intervention. Anything that safeguards more vulnerable individuals can only be a good thing and I think the results so far speak for themselves.”
Councillor Andrea Lewis, Cabinet Member for Homes and Energy, said: “We were very pleased to be a part of this operation to protect vulnerable tenants from County Lines criminals.
“Of the total number of properties involved in Operation Cristo only a small number were council tenancies. Nevertheless, we are working closely with the police and other partners to provide support, working as necessary with partners and taking proportionate action against tenancies where needed.”