Police have arrested five people suspected of county lines dealing with some tricking children into working off imagined drug debts.
Officers struck at eight homes in targeted dawn raids across London, Hampshire and Berkshire this morning.
Police said they rescued four young children and vulnerable people in the operation. They are now being looked after by specialist officers.
Three men and two women, aged between 20 and 40 years old, were arrested on suspicion of offences including conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and modern slavery.
Met officers have so far found a machete, Class B drugs and a rapier sword at the addresses as searches continue.
The early stages of the investigation led officers to believe young children and extremely vulnerable adults were being used to deal drugs along the county lines.
They secured evidence to suggest these individuals were being held against their will in order to clear debts owed to the group.
Sgt Tom Freeman from the Met’s Gangs Unit, which leads the investigation, said: “The operation focused on rescuing children and vulnerable people who had no option to do as they were told through fear of violence from those controlling them.
“The evidence we’ve gathered leads us to believe they were being held against their will until they paid off debts they did not create in the first place. Those involved in this activity entirely manipulated the vulnerabilities of these individuals for their own financial gain – a common trait of county lines lineholders.
“We know county lines activity is closely linked to violence we see on the streets of London and other parts of the United Kingdom. Not only have we rescued vulnerable people from violence and exploitation, but by disrupting this drug supply line we’ve destroyed the business model of this group and hopefully prevented violent incidents occurring in the future.”
All those arrested have been taken to police stations in London and Hampshire.
150 officers from The Metropolitan Police, Hampshire Constabulary and Thames Valley Police were involved in the operation.