WEAPONS, cash and illegal drugs were seized and 34 arrests were made across Cheshire over the past week as officers targeted criminals who exploit children and vulnerable adults.

Over the past week, police launched a week of action against ‘county lines’ crime which sees organised crime groups from outside of Cheshire grooming and exploiting young people and vulnerable adults in our communities.

Officers made 34 arrests, executed 12 warrants and visited up to 33 addresses where vulnerable adults could have been targeted. Arrests were made in Northwich, Winsford and Middlewich in relation to drugs offences.

Nicola Rock, 33, of Felmersham Avenue in Liverpool has been charged with possession of cannabis and two counts of possession with intent to supply crack cocaine and heroin following an arrest in Ash Street, Northwich.

Raymond Cartwright, 51, of Ford Court in Winsford has been charged with two counts of possession with intent to supply crack cocaine and heroin.

A 17-year-old boy and a 23-year-old man, both from Middlewich, were arrested for drugs offences and have been released pending further enquiries.

Up to £7,000 in cash, mobile phones, knives including a sword disguised as a cane, a knuckleduster and an imitation handgun were recovered during the week while heroin, cocaine, cannabis and ‘spice’ were also seized by police.

To prevent children from being targeted by organised criminals, officers visited schools and colleges to make them aware of how to spot the signs of criminal exploitation.

The operation also safeguarded a number of vulnerable adults who are believed to have been a victim of ‘cuckooing’ – a term used to describe organised criminals who force their way into a person’s home to use as a secure operating base to deal drugs.

Acting Assistant Chief Constable Matt Burton said: “Officers across Cheshire have once again carried out some fantastic work to pursue serious and organised criminals and help protect some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“While we regularly take action to disrupt county lines, the weekly focus enables us to go that extra mile by informing the public of what we’re doing, how they can look out for the signs of vulnerability and to report it.

“Keeping vulnerable adults and children safe is our priority in Cheshire. As well as carrying out warrants, making arrests and seizing drugs, it is also incredibly important the public are informed on how they too can help.”

The operation, which took place from Monday, May 13, was part of a national focus on county lines drug activity co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), with more than 500 arrests made nationally.

A county line is operated by an organised crime group (OCG) who use a mobile phone, known as a ‘line’ or a ‘graft’ to extend their criminal activity business into new locations - usually from a city into rural areas.

A/ACC Burton added: “What can often be forgotten is that there are victims at the centre of county lines. Vulnerable adults and children are often targeted to deliver and deal drugs on a criminal’s behalf after being criminally exploited, coerced and manipulated.

“Victims are fearful of the gang’s reputation and left feeling frightened and bullied as they become trapped into their world with no way out. They will often end up becoming reliant on the organised crime group who control their lives.

“This is why we talk to school children and teachers as well as visit businesses and speak with local residents to warn of the dangers to help stop them being taken advantage of.

“I want to take this opportunity to urge residents to keep spotting the signs of vulnerability, keep an eye out if they feel something isn’t right and to report it to us on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”