Operation Switch – targeting drug offences in Leamington
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Following recent events within the Warwick District area, particularly in Leamington, earlier this summer the Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) reinvigorated Operation Switch, to target individuals concerned in the supply of drugs and county lines drug dealing.
County Lines is the term used to describe a form of organised crime where criminals based in larger towns and cities pressurise vulnerable people and children to transport, store and sell drugs in smaller county towns. They will often use coercion, intimidation, violence and weapons.
Working with partner agencies and other teams within the force, Operation Switch has so far concentrated on two strands: targeting those supplying drugs and looking out for those who have been exploited by such activity.
During the first month of the operation, the team increased the amount of intelligence surrounding this type of activity, assisted by information provided by the community and partner stakeholders. This has enabled them to focus on particular targets, concentrate on the vulnerability of those exposed to risk, and investigate areas where residents had raised concerns.
During this phase of the operation, eight individuals were arrested for offences ranging from intent to supply, possession of drugs and possession of a Taser. 41 individuals were stopped and searched, which resulted in some of them being arrested for the offences mentioned.
The vulnerability of the individuals that have been encountered during this part of the operation (as well as wider) are also focussed on within an collaborative partnership approach. Currently there are methods in development where streamlined access, as well as other avenues of opportunity, are being explored for those individuals of concern.
The SNT have found engagement from residents has been paramount in regards to the success the operation and would encourage this information to continue.
Wayne Boulton, Safer Neighbourhood Inspector for Warwick and Leamington, said: “We’re really pleased with the results so far, but Operation Switch will continue and we will relentlessly pursue those who bring illegal drugs into our communities.
“The misery drugs can cause is well known not just to those who take them but to those in the local community as well. County lines drug dealers prey on vulnerable members of our community addicted to illicit drugs. They show no regard for these very vulnerable individuals or to the misery and devastation that these drugs can cause. They are motivated solely by greed.
"Our priority is to make our communities even safer and we will do all we can to target those involved in the supply of drugs and county lines. We will proactively target people we believe to be involved in drugs and use the powers we have to make sure their activity is disrupted.
“However, enforcement alone cannot tackle the issue and it is important we work together with our partners and local communities to raise awareness and educate people around they can do if they suspect someone is involved.”
Warwick District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Health & Community Protection, Councillor Judy Falp commented: “The District Council is pleased with the initial outcome of this operation and the success of our continued partnership working in tackling the very serious issues around the supply of drugs into our towns and the resulting exploitation of vulnerable people.
“This is however, just the start of a journey for which we need the full cooperation of our communities in reporting suspicious behaviour confidentially to the police or anonymously through Crimestoppers.”
Cllr Andy Crump, Warwickshire County Councils Community Safety portfolio holder and Chair of the Safer Warwickshire Partnership Board, said: “The joint response of all agencies, including the essential work of the support agencies and local community is key to ensure our streets stay safe.
“Recent community engagement in South Leamington resulted in over 2000 homes being leafleted and a welcomed opportunity for the community to speak to officers from the Police, Warwick District Council and Warwickshire County Council.”
If anyone has any information in relation to the supply of drug dealing within their community, they are urged to contact police. Suspicious behaviour can be reported on the Warwickshire Police website or via 101. In an emergency, always call 999.
If you’d like to report information anonymously, please call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit their website.
The operation is part of Warwickshire Police’s ongoing commitment to tackling serious and organised crime as part of the force's Protect campaign. The broad-ranging operation covers four key areas of activity:
Pursue – prosecuting and disrupting those involved in SOC
Prevent – stopping individuals from becoming involved in SOC
Protect – increased levels of protection against SOC
Prepare – reducing the impact of SOC where it occurs