POLICE made almost 50 arrests and identified 16 vulnerable children during a week-long crackdown on county lines drug-dealing in Hampshire.

Officers seized knives and a machete, plus £47,000 in cash and suspected Class A drugs with a street value of more than £45,000.

They also targeted 53 cuckooed addresses and carried out 87 stop checks as well as making 49 arrests.

"Cuckooing" is the term used when drug dealers use violence, exploitation and intimidation to take over the home of a vulnerable person and use it as a base for drug dealing.

Daily Echo:

Officers spoke to 39 adults considered vulnerable and potentially at risk of being exploited by dealers.

A police spokesman said: "A significant amount of intelligence has also been gathered through this week of action helping to inform future assessment of threat, risk and harm in our communities from these organised crime networks."

British Transport Police also ran several successful operations in Basingstoke, Southampton and Andover.

Hampshire Constabulary’s lead for drug-related harm, Chief Superintendent, Nigel Lecointe, said: “At the heart of this week of intensification is the aim to bring down county lines networks and safeguarding exploited children and the vulnerable.

“County Lines and local drug networks cause misery for our communities and it is absolutely right that we continue putting significant effort into identifying and arresting those involved.

“The collaborative work between Hampshire Constabulary and our partners will only increase and intensify in the coming weeks and months ahead. We will continue to shine a spotlight on and bring to justice those running these toxic drug networks.

“There is this strong link between drugs and violence, and we have made significant efforts to understand the impact of those involved in County Lines on violence and other crime that spills into our neighbourhoods.”

Daily Echo:

Police are anxious to prevent children being recruited by county lines gangs.

Chief Supt Lecointe added: “Criminals groom children through manipulation, with drugs and alcohol or promises of wealth and status. Any child, in any community, can be vulnerable but they may be too scared to raise concerns and many do not see themselves as victims because they have been manipulated.

“They may not look or act like we expect a victim should and may for instance be angry and aggressive as these are common responses to trauma.

“We must therefore look beyond the obvious to see they need help.

“This is not an issue we can tackle alone. Local agencies, charities, partners, schools, parents all need to help us protect the most vulnerable in our communities.

“If you notice suspicious activity or have information about drug dealing you can speak to local police on 101 or call 999 in an emergency.”