Norfolk Police has commended a major operation into County Lines networks across the county, calling it a "game-changer', after twenty were closed down.
Norfolk Police teamed up with the Metropolitan Police service at the end of 2019, as part of the Met Police led "Op Orichi" which aims to target those controlling County Lines networks.
It has led to 20 networks in Norfolk being closed down, with 25 people being charged in connection with those networks and eight people being sentenced already.
"Op Orichi" is part of a wider national crackdown that focuses on analysing the data of mobile data used to buy and sell crack cocaine, which is then shared with a dedicated team at the Met who work to identify the 'line controller' and their location.
Detective Inspector Robin Windsor-Waite explains further:
“Together our officers build a compelling evidential case before making any arrests.
"We’re being supported by the Crown Prosecution Service to help ensure that we are in a position to charge and remand the line controller on the day of arrest.
"This adds huge impact and prevents the line controller passing on the line to someone else.
“Once we’re happy with the evidence, our Norfolk team is deployed to London to join the Met team to make the arrest.
"The line controllers are then brought to Norfolk custody centres and charged to court.”
The eight individuals who have been sentenced are as follows:
- Matthew Mills, aged 33 and from London – Six years and nine months imprisonment.
- Zoe Gloyn, aged 28 and from Kent – Two years and eight months imprisonment.
- Ashley Davies, aged 29 and from Kent – Two years imprisonment.
- Calum Ascione, aged 25 and from London – Two years and two months imprisonment.
- Sean Lutkin, aged 29 and from London – Two years imprisonment.
- Bradley Chambers, aged 26 and from London – Three years imprisonment.
- Wayne Mann, aged 35 and from London – Four years and two months imprisonment.
- Kieron Hunter, aged 23 and from Norwich – Five years and six months imprisonment.
Detective Inspector Windsor-Waite went on to say Op Orichi has had an "enormous" impact on the supply of Class A drugs in Norfolk:
"By working with a specialist team at the Met, we can share intelligence and fast time investigations to shut down a County Line at its source.
"Once you have the right person, the rest of their drugs operation falls apart and in turn, we can help protect those young people these line holders exploit to run their operation, as well as those at risk from the violence associated with County Lines.
“As a result, we are seeing the number of County Lines operating in Norfolk falling as we have closed down high-risk lines with up to 300 customers.
"However, it is vital we continue to work with our partner agencies going forward to provide support for vulnerable drug users.”
Chief Constable Simon Bailey said:
“Our collaboration with the Metropolitan Police has enabled us to shut down a significant number of County Lines at their source with immediate results.
“This is the most successful County Lines operation to be run in Norfolk and is a game-changer in the way the force tackles the supply of Class A drugs in Norfolk – and the exploitation and violence associated with it.
“The past couple of months have been challenging for Norfolk Police as we have navigated our way through the Covid pandemic.
"However, our commitment to tackling serious and violent crime has not wavered and through our combined efforts, we are making a great impact.
“Whilst our work with the Met is crucial in locating those responsible for County Lines operating into Norfolk, it is vital that we continue to work with our partner agencies locally, to help reduce the demand, support those vulnerable members of the community and help protect young people at risk of exploitation.”
Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Lorne Green, said:
“Norfolk Constabulary’s fight against County Lines and those who would seek to exploit the vulnerable for their evil ends is a relentless battle.
"This Operation however, demonstrates the great things that can be and are being done to shut down these lines and bring their ringleaders to justice, the Norfolk community has good and manifold reasons to be proud of its dedicated and professional police force.
“Work with our partners will continue and the message to those who seek to exploit the vulnerable of our society is that Norfolk is not an easy target.”