POLICE say they are helping vulnerable people by clamping down on organised drug trafficking after officers made multiple arrests in an operation to tackle ‘county lines’ dealing.

Officers in Cumbria joined forces with Merseyside Police to target county lines, resulting in the arrests of 15 people, including nine in Barrow.

Police said in a week of target action five people in the town were arrested on the same day on suspicion of offences including possession of drugs, possessing an offensive weapon and being concerned in the supply of drugs.

A further four were also arrested in Barrow on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of drugs.

Officers made two arrests in connection with money laundering on the M6 and two others in relation to drug possession in Carlisle.

Police used stop and search powers and carried out raids to make the arrests.

A number of vulnerable people were also supported with safeguarding action, said officers.

Cumbria Police’s head of crime and safeguarding, Detective Chief Superintendent Dean Holden, said after the operation: “This helps us protect vulnerable people who are exploited. People who have no money don’t realise what they are getting into it.

“If you are a young man who gets £1,000 to deal drugs, then if police seize the drugs they still owe £1,000. I don’t know anyone who is involved in county lines ends up with a happy ending.”

County lines is the name used to describe a crime network trafficking drugs using dedicated mobile phone lines. They are said to exploit young people and vulnerable adults to move and sell the drugs and sometimes ‘cuckoo’ the homes of vulnerable or drug-addicted people, taking them over and using their property as a drugs base.

Detective Inspector Hayley Wilkinson said officers would do all they could do disrupt criminal gangs.

She said: “We’re committed to dismantling these criminal networks and to protecting the young and vulnerable people who are exploited by gangs and are subject to violence, fear and intimidation. County lines is exploitative drug supply and is devastating to local communities, well beyond those who are directly involved in the local drugs scene.

“We will do all we can to stop county lines drugs criminals targeting our communities as they aim to line their pockets at other people’s misery.

“Working closely with our external partners and partners in the police and regional organised crime units is vital in our fight against drug trafficking and county lines.

Cumbria police and crime Commissioner Peter McCall said: “It’s good to see what Cumbria Constabulary have achieved but the fight against county lines is a continuous operation. No-one wants to see a young person being taken advantage of and subsequently arrested for drug possession or selling drugs.”