A police crackdown on drug supply networks into Kent has led to a dramatic reduction in the number of active county lines.
In just over two years, the number of these criminal enterprises has fallen by almost half; from 82 in 2020, to a current total of 42.
Last week, 20 suspects were arrested as part of the latest enforcement activity across the county. This resulted in 40 charges, as well as disruption to 12 county line supply chains.
The arrests took place during a nationwide week of intensification, involving police forces throughout the country, which ran from Monday 28 February to Friday 3 March 2023 and provided a coordinated focus on tackling drug dealing networks.
Over the course of the week, several search warrants were executed which resulted in the seizure of 555 cocaine and heroin wraps, 1,000 benzodiazapine pills, £20,110 in cash, and eight weapons, including a shotgun found underneath a bed in Ashford. Multiple phones linked to dedicated county line networks were also recovered and dismantled.
As well as carrying out search warrants, officers worked to safeguard vulnerable members of the community who might be targeted by county lines gangs, who often use the ‘cuckooing’ of homes to set up bases in the area. Patrols visited six known targets and also liaised with a north Kent school to offer expertise on protecting children from drugs-related issues.
The safeguarding operation equally provided opportunity to implement criminal behaviour orders (CBOs) and take positive action against individuals involved.
County lines disrupted
A warrant carried out in Eltham led to the disruption of four lines into Kent and the seizure of nearly £2,500 in cash, 200 wraps of crack cocaine, 69g of uncut crack, and a machete.
Casey Butler, 24, of Leverholme Gardens, London, and Jayden Cook, 18, of Restons Crescent, London, were arrested and later charged with drugs-related offences.
Both men appeared before Medway Magistrates’ Court on Friday 3 March, where Butler pleaded not guilty to possession with intent to supply crack cocaine, being concerned in the supply of crack cocaine and heroin, and possession of criminal property, namely cash. He was recalled to prison for breaching parole conditions.
Cook denied possessing crack cocaine with intent to supply and possession of criminal property, namely cash. He was released on conditional bail.
Both men will appear before Maidstone Crown Court on Monday 31 March 2023.
On Wednesday 1 March, a 21-year-old man was arrested for suspected involvement in a Canterbury drug line following a warrant in Lee, London.
Patrols recovered £10,000 in cash, two alleged burner phones, and two SIM cards. Keeva Harris, of Handen Road, was later charged and remanded for being concerned in the supply of crack cocaine and heroin, and for possession of criminal property.
Harris appeared before Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court on the same day but didn’t enter a plea. He was remanded in custody until a hearing at Canterbury Crown Court on Monday 3 April.
200 wraps seized
A man and woman were arrested on Wednesday 1 March following a warrant at a residential property in Canterbury where officers seized 100 wraps of heroin and 100 wraps of cocaine, as well as £1,000 in cash and two suspected county line phones.
Patrick Butler, 29, of Chelmar Road, Chatham, and Sophie Skelding, 25, of Godden Road, Canterbury, were arrested and later charged and remanded for being concerned in the supply of heroin and crack cocaine, possession with intent to supply heroin and crack cocaine, possession of cannabis, and possession of criminal property.
Both appeared before Folkestone Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 2 March, where they applied for bail, and are due to appear before Canterbury Crown Court on Monday 3 April.
Brought to justice
Detective Superintendent Lopa McDermott, of Kent Police's County Line and Gangs Team, said:
‘Since 2020, we have nearly halved the number of county lines in Kent from 82 to 42. This is largely attributed to regular intensification weeks, offering a time of targeted action to tackle drugs networks. The most recent campaign resulted in the recovery of 12 line phones, which has significantly set back the work of those who try to bring Class A drugs into the county.‘Kent Police takes drugs trafficking seriously, and intensification weeks provide a more focussed opportunity to drive home the message that drug-related crime does not pay.‘I would like to thank all officers involved for their hard work and perseverance in identifying and tracking down suspects linked to significant volumes of these crimes. Their diligence and persistence contributed enormously to bringing these criminals before the courts.’
Kent Police urges anyone who has information or is concerned about drug dealing taking place in their area to report it via the website, or to call 999 if a crime is taking place.