HOME Secretary Priti Patel joined more than 120 officers during a major crack down on county lines crime.

Warrants were executed at 10 addresses in Merseyside (Wallasey, Kensington and Norris Green) and North Wales (Rhyl and Abergele) as part of Project Medusa, a Merseyside-led initiative.

Police officers from Merseyside, North Wales and British Transport Police joined forces for the crackdown on County Lines Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) on Friday, January 17. The groups are responsible for cross border drugs supply and the criminal exploitation of young and vulnerable people.

The raids resulted in three arrests and officers seized suspected Class A drugs. Searches at the properties are ongoing.

Denbighshire Free Press:

Home Secretary Priti Patel joined officers for the morning part of the operation

Ms Patel, who joined officers for the morning, said: "I will not tolerate these abhorrent gangs that are terrorising our towns and exploiting our children.

"I’m pleased to see such strong results from the police – they have my full backing in this crucial work.

"We will continue to support their efforts in confronting this threat with 20,000 new officers."

Officers involved in the operation will also be targeting transport hubs in Liverpool (Lime Street train station; Liverpool South Parkway and Liverpool One Bus Station) and North Wales (Chester train station; Bangor train station; Rhyl train station and Colwyn Bay train station).

They will be looking to target individuals using the rail and bus network to transport drugs and carry out County Lines activity.

Officers from Roads Policing will be patrolling main transport routes in a bid to identify vehicles being used by individuals known to be involved in wholesale County Lines drug supply and exploitation.

Denbighshire Free Press:

Picture: Merseyside Police

Chief Constable Andy Cooke said: "In November 2019 Merseyside Police received £640,000 in government funding to tackle and close down County Lines OCGs operating from Merseyside. These County Lines OCGs are responsible for the widespread distribution of illegal drugs in other parts of the country including North Wales; Staffordshire, Cumbria; Cheshire; Lancashire; North Yorkshire; Northumbria; West Mercia; Scotland; Kent; Devon Cornwall and Wiltshire.

"As a result of Government funding we have been able to set up Project Medusa, which consists of different types of operational activity designed to effectively disrupt and in turn bring down these OCGs.

"In the last two months the concentrated activity of our officers, working together with British Transport Police and other forces in the UK, has led to the cutting of seven County Lines run by Organised Crime Groups.

"As a result we have arrested 48 people and more importantly we have been able to safeguard 21 people who were being exploited by these groups. County Lines are run off the backs of vulnerable people targeted by ruthless criminals. They use the vulnerable to deal their drugs, whilst they sit back and live off the criminal earnings from the sales of illegal drugs, which blight our communities."

The operation on Friday is the third operation in a week conducted by Merseyside Police with other force areas.

Chief Constable Paul Crowther, of British Transport Police, said: "We are the specialist force for policing the rail network and my officers have great experience in tackling issues which span the nation, such as county lines. We have seen first hand the devastating impact these exploitative gangs have on young people, and we are determined to disrupt this criminal activity.

“Since the founding of the county lines taskforce we have seen excellent results, with 80 gang members being arrested and drugs and other potential lethal weapons being seized. With each arrest comes valuable intelligence on how these corrosive gangs operate, and likewise we can help safeguard exploited children from harm."

Assistant Chief Constable of North Wales Police Sacha Hatchett said: "Friday's operation with colleagues from Merseyside Police underlines the fact that there are no borders when it comes to prosecuting those who deal drugs, or exploit others to further their illegal enterprise.

"I would like to pay tribute to the many officers and support staff that have both prepared for and taken part in today’s events, and also thank the public for their co-operation whilst we carried out these operations

"We are committed to protecting vulnerable members of society who may fall prey to organised crime gangs, and we endeavour to make North Wales the safest place in the UK."