The Commissioner today launched the sixth round of Operation Scorpion – a joint exercise between five South West forces – outside former South Devon nightclub Bohemia where information from local people led to a major drugs growing operation being shut down in June and a dealer getting a five-month jail term.
She is asking for people to watch out for signs of county lines dealing – where drugs are transported, usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs – and report information to police or anonymously to charity Crimestoppers.
“Information from the community led to a huge drugs growing operation being shut down in the last round of Operation Scorpion,” the Commissioner said.
“This dangerous and exploitative cannabis factory was being run in my home town, hidden in plain sight. Thanks to information handed to police or Crimestoppers Torquay is a safer place and another dangerous drugs dealer is behind bars.
“I am now working relentlessly with Police and Crime Commissioners from around the South West, and their respective forces, to ensure that county lines dealing operations can be driven out of our villages, towns and cities by police working hand in hand with local people.”
The Commissioner’s network of 350 councillor advocates – local authority members who work with community policing teams around the two counties – have been given Operation Scorpion posters which ask people to report the signs of county lines dealing in young or vulnerable people. These can be:
- A child or young person going missing from school or home, or significant changes in emotional wellbeing
- A person meeting unfamiliar adults or a change to their behaviour
- The use of drugs and alcohol
- Unexplained bus or train tickets
- Acquiring money or expensive gifts they can’t account for
- Lone children from outside of the area
- Individuals with multiple mobile phones, tablets or SIM cards.
- Use of unusual terms - e.g. "going country"
- Young people with more money, expensive clothing, or accessories than they can account for
- Unknown or suspicious-looking characters coming and going from a neighbour’s house
- Relationships with controlling or older individuals, or associations with gangs
- Suspicion of self-harm, physical assault, malnutrition or unexplained injuries
In June police seized 416 cannabis plants, with an estimated street value between £116,480 and £349,440, from disused Torquay nightclub Bohemia, in Torwood Street, after a tip-off from a member of the public. Idajet Beqiri, 24, of no fixed abode, was charged with being concerned in the production of controlled Class B drug cannabis. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment at Exeter Crown Court later that month.
Anyone with information about suspected drug dealing in their community can report it to police via the 101 non emergency contact service, or 999 if a crime is in progress. Information can be passed anonymously to the force, via the independent charity Crimestoppers, on 0800 555111 or on the website crimestoppers-uk.org.