DRAMATIC raids unfolded at properties across Bradford today in a major cross-border operation to crackdown on ‘county lines’ drug dealing. 

It involved 70 police officers from both West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire Police, with support from the Regional and Organised Crime Unit and the National Crime Agency.

The raids, part of Operation Jackal, targeted six addresses in a bid to bust three county lines dealing drugs between the city and Harrogate. 

The teams, including detectives, specialist search-trained police officers, police dog handlers, digital forensic investigators and financial investigators, swooped on the homes in the Canterbury, Denholme, Undercliffe and Wibsey areas, early in the morning.

Five men aged 20, 37, 29, 26, and 22 from Bradford were arrested. They are currently in police custody for questioning.

During the operation officers recovered suspected class A drugs including heroin and cocaine in the form of numerous wraps and a package, a total of £3,000 in cash from across the properties, a machete, 20 mobiles phones and suspected drugs paraphernalia including scales and deal bags.  

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

The operation was the culmination of work between North Yorkshire Police’s Project Alliance and West Yorkshire Police’s Programme Precision, to target those suspected of involvement in county lines activity. 

Detective Inspector Fionna McEwan, of North Yorkshire Police’s Organised Crime Unit, told the Telegraph & Argus: “It’s something we’ve been working on for a number of months.

“North Yorkshire has had a real issue with county lines for some time now and unfortunately that brings with it child exploitation, violence, all of those harm markers that affect our most vulnerable, but also the wider community who have to see it day to day.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

County lines crime involves criminal networks dealing in illegal drugs from one area to another.

It can be across force boundaries from an urban to a non-urban area, but can also be from one city to another or across one district using dedicated mobile phone lines. 

Criminals will often use and exploit young children and vulnerable adults to commit the crime - and violence and weapons to get what they want.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Cuckooing is also used - when drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person and use it as a base to store and sell drugs. 

“We’ve been working on the investigation for quite a number of months and it’s building that picture from an investigative point of view,” said DI McEwan.

“But we’ve worked really closely with the regional organised crime unit and West Yorkshire Police, Bradford Organised Crime Unit, which has allowed us, bit by bit, through a number of different tactics and investigative means come to the point where I feel confident we can go and get those individuals that we’ve identified and that we have a strong basis to do that.

“The reason why we’re in Bradford is because the highest harm county lines we had operating in Harrogate came from Bradford and they all have links to one another.”

DI McEwan added: “I feel like we are getting some traction now, we’ve got a good understanding of who’s committing crime on us and how they are doing it and consequently I think because we understand the methods that they’re using much better, it’s allowing us to manage the risk and it’s allowing us to get to points like today where we can take some action.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

“Exploitation of vulnerable people is one of the real keys - what we’ve found with these particular lines from Bradford is they’ve been sending in children, so young teenagers with drugs, into Harrogate.

“That presents a massive risk to those children because they are then unaccompanied in a different town with people who can present a real risk to them.

"Additionally we’ve got the problem of cuckooing, so when they’ve been taking over addresses in the Harrogate area and that is usually vulnerable people, so whether they’re drug users or they have mental health problems in their own right, that presents some real problems because it also puts it behind a closed door and makes it much more difficult for police to see when it’s not on the street, so we really rely on the community intelligence to allow us to understand what’s happening.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

“There’s associated violence, because they are coming into an area that they don’t live in, they have to assert themselves for some dominance, so that’s why we get a lot of associated violence with county lines, albeit the local policing teams in Harrogate manage that really effectively and the risk is consequently kept to a minimum.”

The action was a result of “extensive intelligence gathering” and joint working.

“Community information and intelligence is really key to allow us to understand the picture of what we’re dealing with and it’s them really that can give us the up to date picture that will allow us to target better,” added DI McEwan.

Detective Inspector Andy Farrell, of the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre, said that at a local, regional and national level, work is underway to look at early intervention to divert people away from criminality and safeguard the vulnerable.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

“We have the ability across local and regional police forces to draw on significant resources to be able to relentlessly pursue those who commit the most serious harm within our community, those who exploit vulnerable children and adults,” he said.

“We will use all available tactics and powers to pursue them. But actually, it isn’t just about the pursue angle from the police, we’re well linked in with our partners to look at those safeguarding opportunities.”

Nikki Holland, NCA Director of Investigations and national county lines lead, said: “Tackling county lines and the misery it causes is a national law enforcement priority. Today’s operation demonstrates the power of a joined-up response to a complex problem that we’re seeing in every area of the UK.

“The public can be reassured that collectively we are committed to tackling county lines networks and safeguarding victims.

“We will continue to work collaboratively to dismantle these networks piece by piece in order to eradicate county lines networks, and ultimately keep our communities safe from the exploitation and violence they inflict.”