POLICE from Merseyside, Lancashire, Cumbria and Scotland joined forces to tackle County Lines drug-dealing and child criminal exploitation.

As part on an operation codenamed "Project Medusa" plain-clothed officers and British Transport Police were deployed at a number of locations, including Liverpool Lime Street station, Wigan North Western station and Preston station as well as on board trains travelling up to Scotland.

The forces were supported by British Transport Police (BTP) and arrested 46 people for various drugs offences.

They carried out raids at addresses of those believed to be involved in County Lines drugs supply, whilst at the same time targeting County Lines offenders using the railway, bus stations and the motorway network spanning from Merseyside to the Scottish borders.

Police in Scotland were also on hand at Aberdeen Airport to bring offenders back down to earth and face the reality of their criminality.

Police arrested 36 people on Merseyside, five from Lancashire, two in Cumbria and officers from British Transport Police arrested three people on the rail network.

They seized significant quantities of Class A drugs, cash - including more than £20,000 from one address in Liverpool - and phones.

An imitation firearm was also recovered from an address in Lancashire.

It followed three successful Project Medusa operations conducted by Merseyside Police with other force areas including Cumbria, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Northumbria and North Wales where a number of arrests and seizures of drugs, weapons and mobile phones were carried out along with a number of stop searches.

At the end of January Home Secretary Priti Patel joined officers on Merseyside as warrants were executed and a total of 16 people were arrested and 87 stop searches were carried out around the North West and North Wales.

Merseyside's assistant chief constable Ian Critchley said: "We have seen considerable success through this kind of targeted action in recent months and weeks and it is vital that we keep up this level of activity.

"We are determined to sever the County Lines that blight our communities and the recently created Violence Reduction Partnership (which consists of representatives from Merseyside Police, the Health Service, all five local authorities), is looking at long term strategies to see how a public health approach can help prevent people from becoming involved in County Lines."

Detective Chief Inspector Becky Smith of Lancashire Police, said: "Working cross border with other police forces and a range of other agencies is key in disrupting and dismantling county lines and putting offenders behind bars. We are sending out a strong message that this criminality activity will not be tolerated and that we will continue to work together with our partners and regional forces to disrupt anyone involved in county lines and bring them to justice.

"To do this we need intelligence coming from our communities to alert us to potential drugs activity so that we can investigate and bring organised gangs to justice, as well as safeguarding people, particularly children, who have been exploited and are victims."

Detective Chief Inspector Brett Walker, of the British Transport Police, said: “Our Taskforce works day in, day out, identifying train routes used by drug gangs, then using that knowledge to disrupt that activity.

“We carry out operations across England, Wales and Scotland constantly and always without warning. This has proven to be very successful with more than 140 arrests since December.

“These operations today are another example of the police forces nationwide working together to crack down on anyone using transport hubs, whether it’s by train, bus, motorway or airport, to move drugs across the country.”

Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said: "I’ve seen first hand the vital work the police are doing to disrupt county lines gangs and it’s great to see them continuing to deliver these impressive results.

"The police will always have my full support, and we will continue to bolster their ranks with 20,000 extra police officers.

"I will not tolerate these abhorrent gangs that exploit children and vulnerable people and we will do everything in our power to tackle this issue head on."

Anyone with information which could assist our investigation into County Lines criminality can DM @MerPolCC, call 101 or contact the Crimestoppers line anonymously on 0800 555 111.