Dawn raids were carried out in York today as part of a major police operation against drugs cartels and modern slavery.
Simultaneous raids took place in York, Oldham and north Manchester.
North Yorkshire Police arrested four people in York, while officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) arrested nine people in eight properties.
The action comes as part of a four-month investigation into the transportation of class A drugs and the trafficking of vulnerable young people between the Oldham and York areas – codenamed Operation Homestead.
The 13 arrested – aged between 16 and 54 – are being held on suspicion of conspiracy to supply class A drugs and on suspicion of section 2 of the Modern Slavery Act – arranging or facilitating travel of another person with a view to being exploited.
They all remain in custody for questioning.
Months of work
A small quantity of class A and B drugs were also recovered from the addresses to be examined and used in evidence.
County Lines is the term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into areas across the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines.
Criminals are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move – and often store – drugs and money.
Detective Chief Inspector James Faulkner, of GMP’s Oldham division, said: “Today’s strike action has come after months of dedicated work by officers on the Oldham district, along with our colleagues at North Yorkshire Police, to target and dismantle those involved in this grossly illicit activity.
“It is a very plain and simple fact that drugs wrecks lives within communities, but they especially shatter those of vulnerable people who are targeted and threatened by criminal groups and made to suffer silently while being forced to assist their pernicious criminal enterprises.”
Exploit vulnerable people
The four arrested in York comprised two men aged 48 and 54, and two women aged 41 and 47.
Superintendent Lindsey Butterfield, commander for the York and Selby areas, added: “Today’s action is a clear demonstration of how police forces and partner agencies work together to tackle the scourge of county lines drug dealing and sends a very clear message to those who continue to exploit vulnerable people and bring drugs into North Yorkshire – it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be in the same position as those in custody right now.
“The operation also puts modern slavery in the spotlight and highlights the vulnerability of some of the people who are exploited by drug dealers.
“Particularly young people who are groomed by criminal gangs and end up in a situation they cannot get out of, being forced to work for drug dealers and facing abuse and violence.”
She urged people to “look beyond the obvious”.
“Exploited and vulnerable people don’t always look vulnerable, don’t always act like victims, and may not believe or understand that they are being exploited. Please look out for the signs and report it, you could help save someone from a life of abuse. As you can see from today’s action, we will act on information.”
Anyone with any information should call 101 quoting Operation Homestead.
Details can also be anonymously passed to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.