County Lines: How you could help fight against drug dealing and 'cuckooing' in Harrogate

A number of areas across Yorkshire are believed to have been targeted
A number of areas across Yorkshire are believed to have been targeted

Police combating cross-county criminal networks are appealing for residents across the district to make that 'two minute call,'alerting them to where drug dealing and the exploitation of vulnerable people could be occurring.

The district is home to one of North Yorkshire Police's two County Lines teams, set up in April this year to challenge increased levels of drug dealing, exploitation of vulnerable children and adults, along with the associated violence stemming from organised criminals, or 'operators,' from outside the area.

In the case of Harrogate police say operators are remaining in Leeds or Bradford and contacting drug users by phone, while vulnerable people, often children aged 15 to 18, are dispatched as 'runners'.Travelling to the area they deal in heroin and crack cocaine, often carrying knives for protection.

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So far the district has also seen eight confirmed cases of vulnerable people being 'cuckooed', where operators have arranged for runners to take over homes and use them as a base, using violence or threats of violence to do so.

Speaking to the Advertiser this week Temporary Detective Sergeant, Tom Barker, said residents should not hesitate to contact police if they believe drug offences are occurring or if they spot the signs of cuckooing, helping them see what is often going on 'behind closed doors'.

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He said: "It won't take two minutes to pick up that phone, then depending on the resourcing of the officers on duty at that time it wouldn't be a massively resource intensive thing for us to go down and intervene with a drug deal going on at that time.

"Even if we don't have the resources to go then and there it certainly it won't soak up a lot of our resources picking that up the following day.

"What it does is help build that intelligence picture. We want to know about those locations in Harrogate that are becoming a problem, we want to know about those individuals that are causing the problems and we want to know about those vulnerable people in particular so we can try intervene and support them."

He added: "I would encourage them to make a report so we can research it. They might not see an immediate result but hopefully with the work that has been done so far they have seen changes in patterns, and premises going back to normality.

"Hopefully the public can see some positive action has been taken already, and we can build on that. But we need people to contact us, we don't know everything and often this goes on behind closed doors. Its the people in that vicinity that are aware of it."

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Working with housing providers the police have been able to react to cases with steps such as issuing cease and desist orders on properties. This has happened three times in the district. This could see those found to have committed offences removed.

As of this week 39 County Lines arrests were made in Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon, for offences including drugs, money laundering and possession of weapons. 11 of these were for under 18s, the youngest was 15.

A number of warning signs for cuckooing raised by NYP includes an increase in drug dealing or use in or near the property, occupants appearing to be controlled by visitors, new vehicles and hire cars turning up at the address.

If you have information you can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonynously on 0800 555 111.