Express & Star comment: County lines kingpins need to be stopped

While some visitors from the big cities in the West Midlands go to Shropshire to appreciate its spectacular countryside and priceless heritage, others go for entirely different and entirely unwelcome reasons.

They are crooks looking to expand their crooked empires from urban areas, gaining an entire new criminal base from which to operate.

The problems of “cuckooing” and county lines gangs are hot issues on the policing agenda at the moment. You know what cuckoos do. They find another bird’s nest, lay their eggs, and take over.

It’s the same in the crime context in which drug dealers find some vulnerable person to target and then take over their home and operate from there to create a drugs operation which they naturally hope and expect will not appear on the police radar.

The number of instances in which this has been happening are mounting up, and we must expect that there will be many more operations which are yet to be detected.

A case dealt with at court earlier this week gives an idea of what is going on. Police found a 17-year-old youth at the home of a vulnerable 66-year-old man in Dawley, Telford.

The youth, from Wolverhampton, had the paraphernalia of a drugs operation – scales, multiple mobile phones, crack, and heroin. That youth, who is now 18, was sent down for four years.

In many of these cases it is relatively small cogs in an elaborate criminal machine who are caught while the people who are operating the machine and profiting from its workings are continuing to escape justice.

The real prize for police is to follow a trail that takes them to the big players who could not care less about the fate of their footsoldiers and dupes.

It goes without saying that to tackle this problem police need to identify the cuckooing bases, and to that end they are seeking help from the public, and have given some pointers of the tell-tale signs.

People need to be attuned to the reality that vulnerable householders can become hostage to circumstances they cannot control.

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