The sale of unregistered pay as you go mobile phones should be stopped to thwart criminals who use them to conduct County Lines drug operations, a senior police officer has said.
Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams from the British Transport Police, said gangsters are able to operate using unregistered handsets that can send 500 text messages in one go and can be bought using cash without any details being recorded.
Mr Williams called on mobile phone companies to stop people buying the phones without registering their personal details, insisting it would deal a major blow to the criminal network.
He said: "There are privacy arguments, I accept that, but the fact that people can go in a shop and buy 20 phones for £150 is highly unhelpful for us."
His call came as it was revealed that around a tenth of all county lines drug operations had been dismantled and over 1,000 suspects arrested during a week of action by law enforcement across the UK.
Every police force in the country, working alongside the National Crime Agency (NCA), took part in dozens of raids targeting the complex distribution network of heroin and crack cocaine dealers responsible for spreading drugs from big cities into smaller towns and villages.
Run by organised criminal gangs, they often exploit children as young as 14 to transport narcotics around the country and are linked to extreme violence.
'County line' describes the mobile phone line used to take orders for the drugs and there are estimated to be between 800 and 1,100 operating throughout the UK at any one time.
But during an 'intensification week' police were able to dismantle 102 of the dedicated phone lines.
A total of 1,041 arrests were made and more than 1,500 young people who classed as vulnerable were safeguarded.
While police also seized more than half a million in cash, senior officers admitted there was still a huge black hole of money that was unaccounted for.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for county lines, said: “Through significant efforts across policing we are beginning to turn what may have previously been considered a low risk, high reward enterprise on its head.
“County lines causes misery for communities and it is absolutely right we continue targeting those responsible. The results from this week alone show policing’s unwavering commitment to protecting the public and bringing criminals to justice.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "I will not tolerate county lines drugs gangs terrorising our communities and exploiting young people, which is why I have made tackling this threat a priority.
"I saw first-hand one of the operations last week and the results of this latest crackdown are hugely impressive.
"They send a clear message to criminals that law enforcement is coming after them."