ELEVEN people from Wirral were arrested on suspicion of drug supply and other offences during week of action to disrupt suspected County Lines criminal activity across Merseyside.

More than 20 potentially vulnerable people were also identified, with various safeguarding measures put in place.

The week of action was co-ordinated by the National County Lines Coordination Centre (NCLCC), and focusses on pursuing offenders, safeguarding and protecting the vulnerable, reducing the number of effective county lines, seizing proceeds of crime, and educating professionals who work with young people and vulnerable adults across the county.

County Lines is the process through which criminal gangs typically use children and vulnerable adults to transport and/or deal drugs to customers.

People are recruited using intimidation, deception, violence, debt bondage or grooming and the 'victims' are likely to commit criminal offences during the process.

To date, officers in Merseyside have arrested 32 people, identified and engaged with more than 100 vulnerable people, and seized drugs and weapons.

Along with arrests and safeguarding of those believed to be involved, police across the force have been carrying out talks in schools, visits to care home providers, taxi companies and foster carers to continue raising knowledge amongst those who may encounter those who are at risk of exploitation.

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Reardon said: "Arresting and safeguarding people is just one element of this complex issue, and is clearly a necessary measure to target those who threaten and exploit the vulnerable to further their own criminal businesses.

"We cannot enforce our way of this problem, but working with our partners and our community, we will do our best to ensure that those responsible are removed from our communities and put before the courts.

"More than anything, we hope that continued local and national publicity of the County Lines issue keeps raising awareness of how to spot the signs, and to show young and vulnerable people in our communities that there is help available to you, from various agencies, and pathways to remove you from a potentially harmful situation.

"These dangerous criminals who use young people to further their drugs trade are abusing vulnerable children. They are child abusers.

"Merseyside Police works with many different organisations in the issues around County Lines.

"In July, we launched Operation Target to tackle serious and violent crime, funded with £4.2m from the Home Office’s £100m Serious Violence Fund, which supports work tackling serious and organised crime, including the criminal exploitation of vulnerable people."

"We want those at risk of exploitation to have the knowledge and confidence to break free, and for others in our communities to be aware of the signs so they can report concerns immediately.

"Help us tackle it by providing the necessary information. If you don't want to speak to police you can use social workers, health workers, housing agencies or Crimestoppers. Once we have the information we will respond to it."