"County lines" was first identified as a growing threat in 2014, and a National Crime Agency report the following year with the NCA report published the following year and updated in 2016 highlighted how county lines exploitation is a widespread and serious problem, with the gangs involved exploiting ever-younger victims, and it is a key driver of criminality and violence.
Typically, gangs use mobile phone lines to facilitate drug orders and supply to users. They also use local property as a base; these often belong to a vulnerable adult and are obtained through force or coercion (known as ‘cuckooing’). Children as young as 12 are being targeted.
Gangs ‘recruit’ through deception, intimidation, violence, debt bondage and/or grooming into drug use and/or child sexual exploitation.
This intolerable situation must be dealt with as a matter of urgency and this week Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that a new coordination centre will identify the root causes of county lines drug gangs to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities.
He branded the drug dealers who run these gangs "Cowards who use our children as pawns," adding that they "ruin lives and damage society."
Writing in The Daily Mail, the Home Secretary has outlined how we are tackling county lines crime.
- £3.6 million has been invested in a National County Lines Co-ordination Centre, which will allow police forces to share intelligence and target gangs operating over a wide area
- We have already given police forces stronger powers to stop county lines criminals in their tracks; this new coordination centre which is being funded through our £40 million Serious Violence Strategy will significantly strengthen law enforcement’s response to the county lines problem.
- But these problems cannot just be tackled with strong law enforcement alone, which is why early intervention and prevention is at the heart of our Serious Violence Strategy, and we have recently doubled the funding for early intervention initiatives to £22 million.
Why this matters:
County lines crime is a blight on our communities, devastating the lives of vulnerable children and enslaving them into a vicious circle of crime that is almost impossible to escape; we are working to protect the most vulnerable by intervening early to identify criminal networks while providing support to those who need it.