DOZENS of arrests were made during dawn raids by police across northern England and Scotland that were aimed at smashing county lines drug gangs.
The operation by five police forces, codenamed Project Medusa, saw 11 properties entered and 46 people held on suspicion of drug offences.
Most of the suspects — 36 — were from Merseyside, five were from Lancashire, one was from Cumbria and one was picked up in Scotland.
Another three people were arrested by British Transport Police officers at rail stations and on board trains.
Five ‘vulnerable young people’ were being safeguarded following the raids.
Officers and sniffer dogs recovered ‘significant’ amounts of class A drugs and cash.
At one Liverpool address they found £20,000 in cash, as well as phones and an imitation gun.
Asst Ch Con Ian Critchley, of Merseyside Police, said: ‘Those responsible for these county lines bring misery to our local communities through their drug dealing and they also target and coerce young and vulnerable people into doing their dirty work.’
Home secretary Priti Patel added: ‘I’ve seen first hand the vital work the police are doing to disrupt county lines gangs and it’s great to see them continuing to deliver these impressive results. I will not tolerate these abhorrent gangs that exploit children and vulnerable people and we will do everything in our power to tackle this issue head on.’
Mr Critchley said at least 112 people had been arrested and 32 county lines had been shut down in Merseyside since November.
He added that the raids would hit ‘the criminals hard, but when it comes to the young and vulnerable people, who have been criminally exploited, we ensure that they are treated sensitively and with understanding’.
County lines gangs often use young people as mules to help them expand drug rackets from cities to other areas.