TWELVE people have been arrested in raids in Merseyside and Shropshire as part of a police operation to disrupt county lines drugs supply in to a Shropshire town.

Last Thursday (July 11) nine people were arrested in Merseyside after police carried out warrants at seven addresses. Cash, phone, and what are believed to be controlled drugs were also seized.

Then on Monday (July 15) five people were arrested in Oswestry in connection with the operation.

The operation, led by West Mercia Police, the force that covers Shropshire, saw local officers work with Merseyside Police and the Serious Organised Crime Unit to disrupt an organised criminal network involved in supplying drugs from Merseyside into Oswestry.

Shropshire Detective Chief Inspector Mike Nally said: "This has been a large scale operation involving a large number of officers from two police forces and the regional organised crime unit to disrupt an organised crime group involved in drugs supply from Merseyside into Oswestry.

"We know that county lines is a national issue with many towns and cities across the country experiencing issues and that violence and criminal exploitation is inherent to it.

"We want to send a clear message to those involved that we simply won't tolerate it happening here and will do all we can to relentlessly pursue those involved and make it as difficult as possible for them to operate here.

"The operation has seen us work closely with Merseyside Police and the Serious Organised Crime Unit which we will continue to do to protect our communities from serious and organised crime."

County lines has a significant impact on local communities with drug dealers often targeting people who are vulnerable, often through drug or alcohol dependency, to use their home to facilitate drug dealing, a practice known as cuckoo-ing, following this activity enhanced support will now be provided for those with drug dependency in Oswestry.

DCI Nally added: "Carrying out warrants and making arrests will not sufficiently tackle county lines on its own.

"In Shropshire, as part of our serious and organised crime joint action group we work closely with a range of other agencies all of who play an important part and I'm really pleased and grateful for the work that is being undertaken by our partners to strengthen our response to serious and organised crime.

"It is not unusual for these organised crime groups to criminally exploit young people, supposedly recruiting them to deal drugs on their behalf but what they are actually doing is taking advantage and using them for their own gain, putting the child at risk and it's important we all play a part in being able to spot the signs of county lines so we can do something about it."

To report concerns about county lines or cuckoo-ing to police ring 101 or alternatively information can be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

West Mercia Police is currently running its Protect campaign aimed at tackling serious and organised crime.