police car

Arrests made after ‘county lines’ drug raids in Bridgwater

POLICE used simultaneous warrants to arrest several people in Bridgwater this week as part of a ‘county lines’ investigation.

A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset police said: “With the support of our colleagues in West Midlands Police, with whom we are working closely, we also made an arrest in the Wolverhampton area.

“Five people have subsequently been charged with offences.”

Phoenix Fox, aged 32, and Clare Finka, aged 47, both from Bridgwater, and Natasia Gayle aged 25 from Wolverhampton, have each been charged with being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs.

Tina Austin-Saunders, aged 42, and Lewis Cunningham, aged 19, both from Bridgwater, have been charged with being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs and possession with intent to supply heroin and crack cocaine.

The charges relate to alleged drug offences between 4 July and 24 November 2021.

All five were remanded in custody and will appear at Taunton Magistrates Court today.

A 31-year-old man who was arrested has been interviewed and released under investigation.

A 32-year-old woman and a 43-year-old man, who were also arrested, have since been released on police bail.

Weapons and cash

A considerable number of weapons, drugs and cash were recovered during the operation, which involved partnership working between specialist drugs officers, neighbourhood policing teams, operational support, intelligence, dog operations and West Midlands Police.

Det Insp Scott Chadwick said: “These arrests and charges are the latest stage of our work to combat county lines gangs who are importing drugs into Avon and Somerset and organising the dealing of these in our towns and villages.

“We are working closely with our colleagues across the UK to ensure those behind these activities are brought to justice.

“County Lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in transporting illegal drugs, often from large cities into towns and villages, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of “deal line” to take orders.

Violence

“The organisers will often exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store drugs and money and will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons.”

In October, during a national County Lines intensification week, Avon and Somerset Police visited 380 addresses where occupants are believed to be at risk from, or involved in, county lines.

Anyone with information about drug activity in their community can call 101, report online at Avon and Somerset Police or alternatively contact independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111,

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