New drug detection dogs have been deployed on the railways in a bid to disrupt so-called county lines drug operations, according to British Transport Police (BTP).
The four new canine recruits, who are trained to sniff out a range of illegal substances in busy railway environments, will be used in intelligence-led operations to crack down on drug dealers.
Rocco, Bella, Polly and Dudley will form part of a new police task force funded by the Home Office which aims to tackle county lines operations.
The term refers to the mobile phone lines dedicated to taking orders from drug users, which are operated by criminals from big cities who have expanded into smaller towns.
Young and vulnerable people are often used to act as drug runners or have their homes taken over, or “cuckooed”, to be used as drug dens.
The dogs became operational last week following a “passing out parade” after completing a 12-week training course alongside their handlers, according to BTP.
Superintendent Chris Horton said the new dogs are an “exciting development for the force”.
He added: “With growing intelligence suggesting county lines drug dealers are increasingly using the rail network to exploit vulnerable young people, drugs dogs are an important step in us denying criminals the ability to do so.
“In the past, we have routinely used drug detection dogs from other police forces to identify and disrupt county lines activity across the railway, so we have seen the positive results they can and will continue to have.”
The dogs will work alongside uniformed and plainclothes police, as well as specialists trained in spotting the tell-tale signs of criminal activity.
Crime Minister Kit Malthouse said: “No one should be in any doubt that if you are moving drugs around the UK by road or rail, we will catch you.”
The move is part of a “renewed offensive” against county lines operates, he said, adding that there is “much more to come”.