Three people who ran a county lines drug network in Stevenage have been jailed for a combined total of more than 14 years.
The three men were arrested between September and December 2022, following an investigation by Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Operation Mantis* team. They were charged with operating the ‘Mick and Ranger’ line which supplied crack cocaine and heroin to Stevenage and surrounding areas.
The three men pleaded guilty at St Albans Crown Court on Friday 23 June 2023:
Mukim Ahmed, aged 41, of no fixed address was sentenced to six years and three months for conspiracy to supply class A drugs and possession of a bladed article.
Jibran Azam, aged 32, from Stevenage, was sentenced to five years and seven months for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Nadeem Younas, aged 45, of no fixed address was sentenced to two years and ten months for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Detective Sergeant Chris Cowell, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Operation Mantis team, said: “The trio ran the ‘Mick and Ranger’ line, which supplied class A drugs to the Stevenage area. The disruption of this line will make a significant impact on drug supply and associated crime in the town. It’s also another county line that has been shut down, sending a strong message to would-be drug dealers that they will be caught and jailed.
“In addition to spreading drugs and crime across communities, these gangs exploit vulnerable people, coercing people into providing bases for dealers to operate or to act as distributers themselves. They often use young people to handle drugs and money, drawing them deeper into gang affiliation that often leads to violence and abuse. If you know that a gang is operating in your neighbourhood your information can help us protect the young and vulnerable and get drugs off the streets of Hertfordshire.”
You can report information about a crime online or speak to an operator in our Force Communications Room via our online web chat. You also call the non-emergency number 101. If a crime is in progress call 999.
County Lines is the name given to describe drug dealing, which involves criminal networks from urban areas expanding their activities into smaller towns and rural areas.
It often involves the exploitation of children, as gangs use young people and those with mental health or addiction problems to transport drugs and money. These gangs establish a base in the location they are targeting, often taking over the homes of local vulnerable adults by force or coercion in a practice referred to as ‘cuckooing’.
Dealers typically use a single phone line to facilitate the supply of Class A drugs to customers. The phone line is highly valuable and is protected through violence and intimidation.
*What is Operation Mantis?
The Operation Mantis team was launched in 2018 and is made up of officers who specialise in targeting serious and organised crime. Since May 2019 the team has executed hundreds of search warrants, made 389 arrests and seized over £392,000 in cash. This has led to numerous county lines gangs being dismantled and offenders sentenced to more than 506 years in prison in total.
What is Cuckooing?
Cuckooing is the term used when gangs establish a base in the location they are targeting, often taking over the homes of vulnerable adults by force or coercion.
How to spot the signs that cuckooing might be happening in your neighbourhood:
Lots of different people coming and going from an address during the day and at night.
Suspicious smells coming from the property.
Windows covered or curtains closed all of the time.
Cars pulling up to or near to the house for a short period of time.
An increase in anti-social behaviour around the property.