Twenty-one people have been arrested during a long-running operation targeting county lines gangs dealing drugs in Stevenage and Welwyn Hatfield.

The operation ran between September 2023 and March 2024, targeting a gang drug supply network.

Over the course of the investigation, more than a kilogram of cocaine and heroin was recovered, along with £58,000 in cash.

Officers also recovered one viable firearm and an imitation firearm, as well as ammunition and 15 bladed weapons.

Of the 21 people arrested, 17 have been charged and remanded in custody.

These include Ben Morris, aged 25, of Lemsford Road in Hatfield, Tyrease Gilbert, aged 24, of De Havilland Close in Hatfield, and Nawaz Mohamed, aged 27, of Holly Drive in Potters Bar.

All three have been charged with supplying or offering to supply class A drugs (crack cocaine and heroin). Mr Mohamed has been additionally charged with possession of firearms.

Those arrested and released on bail include a 35-year-old man from Hatfield on suspicion of being concerned in the supplying or offering to supply class A drugs (crack cocaine and heroin) and possession of firearms, a 29-year-old man from Welwyn Garden City on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class B drugs (cannabis), and a 51-year-old man from Knebworth, on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class A drugs (cocaine and heroin).

Detective Sergeant Chris Cowell, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Operation Mantis team, said: "This action forms part of a long-running investigation into drug supply networks in the Stevenage and Welwyn Hatfield areas.

"The disruption of county lines gangs will make a significant impact on drug use and associated crime in the region. It also sends a clear message that drug dealing will not go unpunished and anyone involved will be caught and jailed.

"Exploitation of vulnerable young people is just one of the tragic symptoms of organised drug gangs.

"County lines dealers can coerce people into providing a base 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."

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. 

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.