The operation was led by the Operation Mantis team, Hertfordshire Constabulary‘s dedicated county lines unit, and supported by the Operational Support Group. Officers from the Eastern Regional Special Operations Unit and National Crime Agency were also involved.
Following an investigation into the ‘Ali Snoop’ county line, which was operating in numerous towns across Hertfordshire, five search warrants were executed at addresses in Luton.
The warrants resulted in two arrests and the recovery of over £22,000 in cash and class A drugs with a street value of approximately £25,000, along with mobile phones and other evidence including an imitation firearm.
Habid Iqbal, aged 37, of Watermead Road, Luton and Javon Sutton-Fahie, aged 38, of Westerdell, Luton were both charged with being concerned in the supply of crack cocaine and heroin, possession with intent to supply heroin and possession of criminal property.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Clawson, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Command, said: “This latest operation is part of our continuing drive to disrupt and dismantle county lines gangs operating in Hertfordshire. We have made great advances in the battle against drugs in the county over recent years, and have again made some significant arrests, seizing a large amount of drugs and breaking up criminal networks in the process.
“We continue to take a very proactive approach to gang crime, working with our partners in other forces and national agencies, to make it difficult for these crime groups to operate in our towns.”
Commander Paul Brogden, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for National County Lines, said: “As NPCC lead for National County Lines I would like to thank Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Constabularies and Eastern Regional Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) for all of their fantastic work in tackling County Lines Criminal Gangs. This is an excellent result which highlights the continued perseverance and dedication that is being performed by our teams daily by arresting offenders, protecting the vulnerable and our communities.”
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What is county lines?
County Lines is the name given to describe drug dealing, which involves criminal networks from urban areas expanding their activities into smaller towns and rural areas.
It often involves the exploitation of children, as gangs use young people and those with mental health or addiction problems to transport drugs and money. These gangs establish a base in the location they are targeting, often taking over the homes of local vulnerable adults by force or coercion in a practice referred to as ‘cuckooing’.
Dealers typically use a single phone line to facilitate the supply of Class A drugs to customers. The phone line is highly valuable and is protected through violence and intimidation.
*What is Operation Mantis?
The Operation Mantis team was launched in 2018 and is made up of officers who specialise in targeting serious and organised crime. Since May 2019 the team has executed hundreds of search warrants, more than 400 arrests and seized over £392,000 in cash. This has led to numerous county lines gangs being dismantled and offenders sentenced to more than 600 years in prison in total.
What is Cuckooing?
Cuckooing is the term used when gangs establish a base in the location they are targeting, often taking over the homes of vulnerable adults by force or coercion.
How to spot the signs that cuckooing might be happening in your neighbourhood:
- Lots of different people coming and going from an address during the day and at night.
- Suspicious smells coming from the property.
- Windows covered or curtains closed all of the time.
- Cars pulling up to or near to the house for a short period of time.
- An increase in anti-social behaviour around the property.