Police in Worthing search 25 people in 'significant operation' against violent drugs gangs

Police were seen out and about in the town on Thursday as part of the operation. Pictures: Sussex Police
Police were seen out and about in the town on Thursday as part of the operation. Pictures: Sussex Police

Police in Worthing searched 25 people in one day as they continue to crack down on county lines drug dealing.

Officers were out in force in Thursday in an effort to stem the flow of drugs coming into the seaside town.

Police focussed their attention on road and rail routes into the town

Police focussed their attention on road and rail routes into the town

Chief Inspector Miles Ockwell described it as a 'significant operation' and residents reported seeing large numbers of police.

Police search 25 people as they carry out drugs sweep in Worthing

This morning Sussex Police confirmed that 25 stop and searches were carried out as part of the day of action.

Two men were arrested on suspicion of possessing Class A drugs and a young woman was arrested on suspicion of possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply.

Three people were arrested, police confirmed

Three people were arrested, police confirmed

Johnathan Mateer, 47, of Robinson Close, Lancing, has been charged with possession of heroin and crack cocaine and is due to appear at Worthing Magistrates' Court on March 22, police confirmed.

The other man, 47, from New Addington in South London, was released under investigation.

The 23-year-old Goring woman arrested on suspicion of possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply accepted a formal police caution.

Police showing that Sussex is a 'hostile environment' for drug supply

Police spoke to residents about the importance of their work

Police spoke to residents about the importance of their work

Ch Insp Ockwell, who serves as District Commander for Adur and Worthing, said “This activity provides not only a great visual deterrent to those considering drug dealing in Worthing, but also a visible policing presence in the town to reassure residents that we are tackling illegal activity here.”

“Officers were out from early on in the day to catch the rush hour traffic, and carried out further operations on the railways and the streets. We know criminals will use a number of methods and areas to deal drugs, and we want to send a clear message to them that not only is drug supply not welcome in the town, we are also tackling this across the county.”

“County lines activity is known to come from bigger cities, and to use vulnerable people to carry out work on behalf of gangs.

"It is our job to keep the community safe by promoting the hostile environment that Sussex is for drug supply. We will continue work to stem the flow of drugs throughout the year.

“As part of our operation we visited hotels and bed and breakfast premises to raise awareness of this issue and to make it clear that suspected drug dealing activity must be reported to the police.”

What is county lines drug dealing?

County lines is a particularly harmful and violent tactic used by big city drug gangs and is being seen across the UK.

The term refers to a strategy used by gangs from large urban areas such as London, who use children and young people and vulnerable adults to carry out illegal activity on their behalf.

The groups operate a dedicate drugs 'line' as part of their business.

One of the most harrowing features of county lines drug dealing is violent gangs taking over the homes of vulnerable people. This is known as 'cuckooing'.

READ MORE: How you can spot county lines drug dealing in your area

Operation Fortress and how you can help

Police work to combat illegal drugs in Sussex continues under the 'Fortress' brand, launched to encompass all their drug-harm reduction work.

Ch Insp Ockwell said last month that his officers are making real progress against big city gangs selling drugs on our streets.

Anyone with information about suspected illicit drug activity in their community can report details online or call 101, quoting Operation Fortress.

Alternatively details can be passed anonymously via the independent charity Crimestoppers online or by phoning 0800 555 111.

For further information about police work to combat County Lines activity in Sussex see the force website.