Every resident on two York streets visited by police in drugs operation

Vulnerable people are exploited by drug dealing gangs. Photograph: iStock

North Yorkshire Police visited the residents of two entire York streets as part of coordinated action to tackle drug dealing.

The work was part of a week of coordinated action to tackle “county lines” drug dealing.

Across the force area police arrested six people, carried out 53 welfare visits to ‘cuckooing’ victims and safeguarded 16 adults during.

County lines is the name given to a form of organised crime in which drug dealers from urban areas exploit vulnerable people – including children – and force them to deal drugs in smaller towns and cities.

Cuckooing is where drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person – often using violence and intimidation – and use it at a base to sell and store drugs.

Groomed and exploited

A York police drugs warrant
The Week of Intensification, coordinated by the National County Lines Coordination Centre (NCLCC), began on 7 October and involved all police forces across the country.

In York, the residents of two entire streets were visited in partnership with the City of York Council due to ongoing issues relating to drug dealing and to check on the welfare of some of the residents.

In North Yorkshire, officers also targeted public transport providers to raise awareness of how to spot children who may have been exploited and are traveling to the county to sell drugs.


Young people who have been groomed and exploited by drug dealers often travel long distances in taxis or buses and use cash – often high amounts – to pay their fare.

Chief Inspector Emma Aldred of North Yorkshire Police said:

  • The week of intensification is an opportunity to highlight how we are tackling this issue in North Yorkshire, but what we also want to make clear, is that our work is going on every day of every week.

    Due to the vulnerability of its victims, working with partners to provide wrap-around care and support is also important if we are to break the cycle of drug dependency, vulnerability and antisocial behaviour associated with county lines.

She urged members of the public to be vigilant and report any suspicions. “Your information could be the crucial piece we need, or help to safeguard a vulnerable child or adult.”

Signs to look out for

Cuckooing

Cuckooing refers to the practice of drug dealers taking over the home of a vulnerable person and use it at a base to sell and store drugs, often using violence and intimidation to achieve this. Cuckooing victims are often drug users themselves, or people who are vulnerable due to a mental or physical disability, their age or lifestyle, such as sex workers and single mothers.

North Yorkshire Police works with partner agencies including local authorities, housing providers, drug and alcohol support workers, pharmacies, homeless hostels and shelters, to provide interventions and support for these known victims. The force also carries out regular welfare checks on known cuckooing victims.

Cuckooing victims are often given free drugs in return for allowing dealers to stay at their home, resulting in them being dependent on the dealers and “owing” them a debt.

Many victims of cuckooing may have unexplained injuries but are reluctant to get help or report it to the police as they are scared of the repercussions. Again, this is why information from the public or other agencies who come into contact with people is so important.

Signs of cuckooing to look out for include:

  • Increased callers at a property at all times of the day or night
  • Increase in cars pulling up for short periods of time
  • Different accents at a property
  • Antisocial behaviour at a property
  • Not seeing the resident for long periods of time
  • Drug-related rubbish – small plastic bags, syringes
  • Windows covered or curtains closed for long periods
  • Unexplained or untreated injuries

Child criminal exploitation

  • Persistently going missing from school or home and / or being found out-of-area
  • Unexplained money, clothes, or mobile phones
  • Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls
  • Relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups
  • Leaving home / care without explanation
  • Suspicion of physical assault / unexplained injuries
  • Carrying weapons
  • Significant decline in school results / performance
  • Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks
  • Self-harm or significant changes in emotional wellbeing
  • Travelling long distances on public transport – is it term time? Should they be in school? Are they paying high cost fares with cash?

Anyone with concerns about county lines can speak to local police on 101 or call 999 in an emergency. If you’d rather stay anonymous you can call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

If you are a young person who is worried about being involved in county lines, or knows someone who is, you can speak to an adult and let them know how you feel.