Drugs raids in Kettering target county lines 'lieutenants'

Drugs raids
Image caption Northamptonshire Police used modern slavery laws to target county lines drug gangs in Kettering

Co-ordinated drug raids have targeted "big city" organisers of drug gangs, and their rural county "lieutenants".

Northamptonshire Police carried out three days of action in Kettering, and in London with the support of The Metropolitan Police.

The force said it was one of the biggest operations it had run, and had been "months in the planning".

Det Insp Steve Watkins said they wanted to "dismantle the county lines gangs" operating in Northamptonshire.

Image caption Police carried out extensive searches of properties they suspected were used for dealing and storing drugs

The police also used modern slavery laws for the first time to target those behind the "exploitation of vulnerable children".

County lines drug dealing involves organised crime groups from larger cities setting up in smaller towns such as Kettering with local dealers

Det Insp Watkins said in this case they were "using children to deal, store and deliver drugs".

'No typical victim'

He said those higher up in the gang used the local youngsters so "they aren't exposed to the same kind of risk" of carrying drugs.

"They think it allows them the ability to operate without being caught," he added.

Image caption Det Insp Watkins said the raids in Kettering targeted people who used vulnerable children to deal drugs

Two men and a woman in London and 15 people in Kettering were arrested and charged with offences including supplying Class A drugs, human trafficking and modern slavery.

Mr Watkins said there was "no typical victim" of child exploitation by drug dealers "but they are all vulnerable".

The gangs "know who to target and know how to draw them in", he added.

Sgt Tony Payne, who took part in one of the raids, said they looked dramatic but were needed to prevent suspects disposing of evidence.

Image caption As well as detaining suspects and searching properties, police also have to clean up after themselves

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