Exclusive: Police seize tens of thousands of pounds in major county lines operation

The vast majority of the UK's 600 county lines gangs use Britain's rail network to carry huge quantities of illegal drugs and cash to communities right across the country

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At least 10,000 teenagers, some as young as 13, are being exploited by county lines criminal gangs to transport drugs for them, GB News can reveal.

The vast majority of the UK's 600 county lines gangs use Britain's rail network to carry huge quantities of illegal drugs and cash to communities right across the country.

British Transport Police, which has run a dedicated county lines unit since 2019, said 40% of those arrested by its county lines officers were teenagers.

Many, who authorities believe may have been trafficked or coerced into running drugs, were referred to social work departments and children's charities as part of national safeguarding protocols.

Police seized tens of thousands of pounds worth of drugs during the first day of a four-day operation.
Police seized tens of thousands of pounds worth of drugs during the first day of a four-day operation.

GB News was given exclusive access to follow a major British Transport Police led operation targeting the gangs using trains and stations across the UK.

On the first day of a four-day operation, police seized tens of thousands of pounds worth of drugs and illicit cash and made multiple arrests.

Head of the unit, which covers the whole of the UK, Superintendent Gareth Williams said: "it's critical that we're covering all regions because county lines is a UK wide issue.

"So my six regional teams are out every day looking for people who are being exploited, being coerced into activity."

The county lines task force has made more than 1,500 drugs seizures since its operation began in 2019.
The county lines task force has made more than 1,500 drugs seizures since its operation began in 2019.

At Euston station in central London, dozens of officers from British Transport police, supported by specialists from the City of London police, took up positions around the Underground station and on the main station concourse.

Armed officers and specialist sniffer dogs were deployed to help pin point those who could be carrying drugs or other illicit materials.

A 26-year-old man was arrested shortly before 10am on suspicion of money laundering, after he was stopped carrying a large amount of cash.

Just minutes later, a 23-year-old man was stopped and arrested on suspicion of supplying class A drugs after he was found to be carrying £1,400 and a cheap disposable mobile phone, the type of burner phones often used by drug dealers.

Later in the afternoon another man, 20, was caught carrying a quantity of cannabis and a baton. He was arrested for possession of an offensive weapon.

Around the same time, a man in his 50s was arrested on suspicion of supplying drugs and money laundering after he was stopped carrying £3000.

The four-day operation is targeting multiple rail stations across the country.

Superintendent Williams said the continued use of young and vulnerable people by the criminals was deeply alarming.

"The children were see are often in a poor state of health. They've often been staying in locations they don't know. They're often dirty.

"They're getting paid of course, and that's often the driver for them, but they don't understand the danger they're putting themselves in. And of course they're vulnerable because of their age."

GB News was also invited to witness plain clothes officers as they boarded a train bound for the Midlands, looking for any sign of suspicious activity.

The officers discreetly patrolled the carriages and watched as people boarded the train on multiple stops as it headed north.

The county lines taskforce at British Transport police has made around 2,200 arrests since the unit began operation in 2019.

Its officers have made more than 1,500 drugs seizures and recovered £1.25 million in illicit cash.

500 lethal weapons have also been seized by taskforce officers.

Because of the high number of teenagers involved in transporting drugs for the gangs, British Transport police have begun working much more closely with social work departments and children's charities.

Some officers have been seconded to help work alongside the Children's Society.

The Society's national operations manager Ellie Fairgrieve said the criminal gangs are ruthless and creating a "really significant problem."

Many train passengers would probably be "completely unaware" that the young person sitting near them was being coerced into criminality.

"Young people can act in various ways." She said.

"They can be quiet, they can be constantly checking their phone. They can have lots of cash on them.

"They can seem paranoid, and looking behind them. Or they can even come across as quite aggressive. But that aggression isn't aggression, it's fear.

"They're worried if they don't do the right thing for the person that's exploiting them and messaging them and telephoning them.

Sniffer dogs were deployed at several stations across the UK during the operation
Sniffer dogs were deployed at several stations across the UK during the operation

"If they don't get off at the right station, or meet the right person, there could be significant consequences for them."

During the first day of operational police activity, officers at Birmingham New Street Station stopped a 27-year-old man carrying a suitcase with 10.5kg of cannabis inside.

Further up the line in Wolverhampton, a man and woman were arrested after the suitcase they were carrying was searched and 6kg of cannabis was found vacuum packed inside.

GB News witnessed another operation at Coventry rail station, where British Transport and local police officers were assisted by police dog 'Ash' a key weapon in helping sniff out those suspected of criminal activity.

The criminal trade in supplying outlying communities with drugs still nets criminal gangs in excess of £500 million pounds a year
The criminal trade in supplying outlying communities with drugs still nets criminal gangs in excess of £500 million pounds a year

As a 27-year-old man arrived at the station to board a train, "Ash" indicated to his handler the man was worth a closer look.

As plain clothes officers searched him, they found £5000 in sealed plastic.

A later search of the suspect's home also found a quantity of steroids and scales, often used by dealers to weigh their product.

In the last few years, the number of county lines has been reduced from a high of 2000 to around 600.

But the criminal trade in supplying outlying communities with drugs still nets criminal gangs in excess of £500 million pounds a year.

It is a criminal enterprise that remains a major issue for law enforcement right across the UK, as this latest county lines operation starkly illustrates; 10s of thousands of pounds worth of drugs and illicit cash seized in just a single day.