Cash and drugs worth £3 million have been seized by police in the biggest operation against county lines gangs backed by a dedicated Government fund.
The campaign - by four forces - saw police make more than 650 arrests, close nearly 140 “deal” lines supplying drugs from cities to suburban and rural towns and seize more than 100 weapons including guns and knives.
Some 140 children being exploited by the gangs were also safeguarded in the raids conducted over five months from November to March this year.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, said: “I am determined to roll up county lines drugs gangs and stop them from terrorising our towns and exploiting our children.
“I have seen first-hand the important work the police are doing to tackle county lines, and these impressive results show just how much of an impact our investment is having.”
The “surge” operations - British Transport Police, the Metropolitan Police, Merseyside Police and West Midlands Police -were funded by £5 million from the Government’s £25 million package to tackle county lines.
The Met and Merseyside forces closed 131 lines, while the British Transport police made the most arrests at 276 as drug couriers were caught on their way to and from the county drug dealerships. Merseyside seized £1.5 million class A drugs, thought to be predominantly cocaine.
Andy Cooke, Merseyside Police Chief Constable, said: “It is vital that we keep up this relentless level of activity targeting criminals and protecting the young and vulnerable who they groom to do their dirty work.
"Those responsible for these County Lines bring misery to our local communities through their drug dealing.”
Met deputy assistant commissioner Graham McNulty, national lead for county lines, said: “This issue is not being tackled in isolation. Dedicated teams in forces across the nation are identifying lines, locating those running them and dismantling their operation entirely.
“This work will not cease – it will increase and intensify over the coming months.”