South Western Railway is supporting British Transport Police’s action to combat County Lines drug dealing on the rail network.
County Lines refers to the transportation of illegal drugs across the UK, from one local area to another. This is organised by criminal gangs, who often recruit vulnerable and young people to move the drugs for them. This impacts the UK’s railway, as these gangs use the network to travel to target areas to avoid traditional road-based policing.
Last week, British Transport Police carried out a week of action on the rail network. On Thursday 17 September, officers attended Basingstoke Station alongside local MP Maria Miller.
On Friday 18 September, South Western Railway’s Managing Director, Mark Hopwood attended a British Transport Police exercise in at Andover Station in Hampshire, to witness their work in identifying these drug dealers using the rail network.
The exercise was also attended by Policing Minister and MP for Andover, Kit Malthouse, as well as Chief Constable of British Transport Police Paul Crowther.
Both exercises were successful, with two arrests made at Basingstoke and three arrests made at Andover.
South Western Railway continues to work closely with British Transport Police, ensuring its own Rail Community Officers have all of the skills and knowledge to help to spot the signs of County Lines exploitation and play a part in tackling this activity.
Jon McLeod, Crime & Community Manager at South Western Railway said: “We welcome the hard work British Transport Police are doing to tackle the issue of County Lines drug dealing on our railway.
“This work is making our railway safer for our colleagues, and the customers and the communities we serve.”
Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke, said:
“Police intelligence shows that gangs are using children and vulnerable adults to transport drugs using the local railway network with Basingstoke Station used as a gateway for transporting drugs into Hampshire. I witnessed this first-hand during the British Transport Police (BTP) operation at Basingstoke station when 2 young people were caught within an hour of the police operation starting.
"The action being taken by BTP, working with the local Hampshire Constabulary, is sending a clear signal that gangs can no longer rely on our railway network to transport drugs.”
Taskforce lead, Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams said:
“Our Taskforce is in a unique position, we operate nationally and target County Lines activity across the railway network.
“Our experience has proven that gangs who use the railway network rely on younger people to move drugs. These individuals are victims, forced through exploitation or intimidation into desperate situations, and it’s always our priority to make support available that can get them out of harm and away from crime.
“Since December, we’ve been carrying out operations daily, always based on developing intelligence that shows where gangs are operating. We get part of our information through working in partnership with other law enforcement agencies, but also importantly through the support of the rail industry who train their staff to spot signs of exploitation.
“These efforts to raise awareness of signs of exploitation have been greatly helped by the work of The Children’s Society who’s #LookCloser campaign aims to encourage everyone to spot key signs
“Key indicators include a teenager travelling long distances, alone with a large amount of cash, or avoiding any sort of authority at stations. These indicators are small but invaluable and help inform where we target next. We have a rapidly evolving understanding of County Lines offending and we are prepared to tackle it, wherever the intelligence leads us.”
Notes to editors
- Image 1: Maria Miller MP, SWR Station Manager Jenny Keen, a Hampshire Constabulary Chief Inspector and BTP Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams.
- Image 2: Kit Malthouse MP, BTP Chief Constable Paul Crowther, and SWR MD Mark Hopwood outside of Andover station