Cocaine, cash, phones and a machete among items seized as Sussex Police tackle drugs gangs

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne

Police have scuppered 87 plans to bring drugs into Sussex since last April.

The action, which led to 133 arrests across West Sussex, East Sussex and Brighton & Hove, was part of the ongoing work to tackle ‘county lines’ crimes.

‘County lines’ is a term is used to describe gangs and crime networks who arrange to have drugs imported to one county from another using dedicated mobile phone lines.

Information shared with the Sussex police and crime panel showed that, in the west of the county, 13 attempts were stopped, with significant amounts of cash, phones and Class A drugs seized – including half a kilo of cocaine. Eighteen people were arrested.

In the east, 33 attempts were stopped, leading to 45 arrests, while a sword and machete were among the items seized.

In Brighton & Hove, officers disrupted 41 attempts and made 70 arrests. They seized cash, phones, Class A & B drugs and a firearm.

There was no information about the number of successful prosecutions.

Friday’s meeting was told there were currently around 65 active county lines as well as a number of local drug dealers operating in the area.

More than 350 numbers were thought to be used as deal lines, predominantly run by London-based gangs.

There were concerns from members about the potential for gangs to exploit vulnerable children and adults, coercing them to move or store drugs and money.

Norman Webster (Con, East Grinstead – Baldwins) said: “As long as there is a market people will exploit that market. We need to attack the scourge from all angles.”

The issue of weapons in the county’s schools was also raised, with one West Sussex councillor having already shared his fears that alternative provision colleges had become ‘hotbeds’ for cuckooing.

Cuckooing is the term used for a form of abuse where drug dealers befriend a vulnerable person and use their home as a base from which to sell.

Police figures showed that 41 weapons offences were recorded in schools, colleges and universities in Sussex between April, 2017, and March, 2018 – the majority involving knives.

This was a huge drop from the year before when there were 75 incidents.

David Simmons (Con, Hillside) said the figures were a step in the right direction but questioned whether they showed the complete picture.

Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne acknowledged that ‘some of the problem’ had been in getting schools to share their data, but told the meeting that the importance of doing so had been stressed.

Mr Simmons said there were worries that youngsters who had been excluded from school – including those with problems with knives, drugs or violent behaviour – often ended up together in alternative provision colleges.

He added: “All the time that the schools exercise their duty of care to the wider school community, it’s likely that young people with weapons and drugs will be excluded.

“We need to have a real focus on dealing with young people at that level.”

Mrs Bourne assured the meeting that prevention youth officers were working with schools to tackle the problem.

She said: “West Sussex division is currently running a county lines intensive activity week, where youth officers are going into schools to raise awareness with teachers about drugs and about exploitation – particularly about county lines – and the dangers of carrying weapons.”

Karen Dunn , Local Democracy Reporting Service