TWO Northwich men have been charged with drug offences after a week of action across the county.

Cheshire Police's 'County Lines' campaign saw warrants executed at 25 addresses – including some where vulnerable adults may have been targeted or exploited by organised crime gangs.

The week of action saw 12 arrests made, and cash, phones, weapons, heroin, crack cocaine and cannabis seized by police.

In Northwich, two men aged 46 and 21 were charged with possession with intent to supply crack cocaine and heroin.

Officers focused on safeguarding vulnerable adults who are believed to have been a victim of ‘cuckooing’ – a term used to describe organised criminals who force their way into a person’s home to use as a secure operating base to deal drugs.

In May, two men from Liverpool were sentenced for 'cuckooing' a vulnerable Northwich woman and her young daughter – using the house to sell, supply and store drugs.

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DCI Justin Hancock said: “Officers across the force have continued to pursue serious and organised criminals and help protect some of the most vulnerable people in our communities who are exploited by these gangs.

“Disrupting county lines is what we do on a regular basis however the weekly focus enables us to go that extra mile by informing the public of what we’re doing, how they can look out for the signs of vulnerability and to report it.

“This week has been about keeping vulnerable adults and children safe and identifying those who are most at risk. As well as carrying out warrants, making arrests and seizing drugs, it is also incredibly important the public are informed on how they too can help vulnerable adults and children from these gangs.”

The operation was part of a national focus on county lines drug activity co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).

In total, across the UK, 700 arrests were made and 681 people safeguarded, with almost half a million pounds worth of drugs seized.

A county line is operated by an organised crime group (OCG) who use a mobile phone, known as a ‘line’ or a ‘graft’ to extend their criminal activity business into new locations – usually from a city into rural areas.

Local Policing Units worked closely with neighbouring forces, councils and social care services during the operation.

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Officers across the county also went into schools to give talks to youngsters how to spot the signs of criminal exploitation.

They include a significant change in emotional wellbeing, money from an unknown source, multiple mobiles or excessive texts and calls, and carrying weapons.

DCI Hancock added: “What can often be forgotten is that there are victims at the centre of county lines.

"Vulnerable adults and children are often targeted to deliver and deal drugs on a criminal’s behalf after being criminally exploited, coerced and manipulated.

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“Victims are fearful of the gang’s reputation and left feeling frightened and bullied as they become trapped into their world with no way out. They will often end up becoming reliant on the organised crime group who control their lives.

“This is why we talk to school children and teachers as well as visit businesses and speak with local residents to warn of the dangers to help stop them being taken advantage of.

“I want to take this opportunity to urge residents to keep spotting the signs of vulnerability, keep an eye out if they feel something isn’t right and to report it to us on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Information can also be provided by email here.