Arrests in Harrogate police operation to protect vulnerable 'cuckooing' victims

The police have taken action to protect vulnerable Harrogate people from 'cuckooing as part of a week-long crackdown on county lines crime.

Monday, 28th September 2020, 9:42 am
North Yorkshire Police worked with partner agencies to visit 64 vulnerable people identified as victims or potential victims of cuckooing to put safeguarding measures in place.

In North Yorkshire officers arrested 14 men and a 17-year-old boy over the course of the week.

The action was part of a national week of intensification led by the National Crime Agency and Regional Organised Crime Units to disrupt criminals and safeguard vulnerable people.

The 15 suspects were arrested on suspicion of various offences ranging from supplying heroin to possessing cash obtained through criminality.

The arrests were made in the Harrogate, Skipton and Keighley areas.

Among those arrested were:

Three men from Harrogate intercepted by plain clothed police officers.

Three men arrested after officers intercepted a taxi near Bradford.

A man from Harrogate who was charged to court within 24 hours of his arrest.

A key focus of tackling county lines drug dealing is safeguarding vulnerable people who are exploited by criminals.

These can be people forced to travel from town to town selling drugs, or those who are victims of what is known as ‘cuckooing’.

This is where vulnerable people – often drug users or those with mental or physical disability - are forced into allowing drug dealers to stay in their homes which are then used as a base to store and sell drugs.

North Yorkshire Police worked with partner agencies to visit 64 vulnerable people identified as victims or potential victims of cuckooing to put safeguarding measures in place.

The measures can range from being re-housed to being issued with advice and information to make them aware of cuckooing and how to recognise the signs that they are being exploited and how to get help.

The visits were carried out in the Harrogate, Skipton and Scarborough areas.

Officers also worked with British Transport Police to target people using the rail network to bring drugs into North Yorkshire from towns outside of the county and to raise awareness among passengers of exploitation and signs to look out for.

The force also supported the Children’s Society #LookCloser campaign through social media - designed to encourage people to look beyond the obvious to help protect children who are being exploited:

Those who don't always look vulnerable, don't always act like victim, may not understand they are being exploited, may have a distrust of police/adults in authority and appear angry or aggressive – common signs of trauma.

Chief Inspector Emma Aldred of North Yorkshire Police, said: “County lines continues to be a key priority for North Yorkshire Police. The week has thrown a spotlight on what is going on throughout the year to disrupt drug dealing and safeguard vulnerable people.

“The patrols and visits also allow us to gather valuable information that is used to build up a picture of what is happening in the area and forms part of a bigger picture that goes on to inform the action we take in the future.

“We urge people to continue to report any concerns they have about drug dealing or vulnerable people in their neighbourhood. We will take action.”

Facts about county lines in North Yorkshire

It's a major operational priority for North Yorkshire Police

The force has three proactive teams focused on county lines and based in the areas that are impacted most – York, Harrogate and Scarborough.

North Yorkshire is known as an “importer” force. This means that people come from other areas to sell drugs here. An exporter force is one where the key dealers are based and the runners / exploited children are recruited from there and sent to county towns.

Typically dealers based in Merseyside, Manchester and West Yorkshire target North Yorkshire and to a lesser extent from London and the Midlands.

Exploited children use the public transport network to travel to North Yorkshire such as trains, taxis and buses.

They travel long distances and pay their fare by cash – often large sums of money that ordinarily a child would not carry with them or have access to.

County lines crime: How the public can help

If you to report any concerns t about drug dealing or vulnerable people in your neighbourhood, all North Yorkshire Police on 101.

If you prefer not to speak to the police and wish to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

If you or another person is in immediate danger, always call 999.

The police advice to the public is not to approach anyone you suspect is being involved in drug dealing, but call the police.

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