National crackdown begins against ‘county lines’ drug gangs

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A national police unit based in Birmingham have launched a crackdown on county lines drug gangs, which send children into rural towns to sell drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine.

The team of 38 investigators aims to develop a national intelligence picture of the drugs network after increasing use of the tactic.

The county lines gangs recruit young people from cities to transport class A drugs to market towns, coastal areas and rural locations. Ringleaders market the drugs to local users through mobile phone hotlines, whilst the young drug mules conduct the face to face sales.

Investigators believe that a typical hotline will turn over £2,000/£3,000 worth of drugs per day

A National Crime Agency assessment has revealed that there are more than 1,000 lines in operation across the country and 200 active investigations into them. However, many operations have been hampered by a lack of coordination between multiple police forces.

Steve Rodhouse, the Director General of Operations at the National Crime Agency, said: “County lines is a national problem, supply gangs are responsible for high levels of violence in addition to the exploitation and abuse of vulnerable adults and children.

“This crackdown will go beyond police work and help to develop a multiagency approach to identifying and safeguarding vulnerable young people caught up in the drugs trade, confiscate profits from dealers, and understand what drives demand for drugs.”

The launch of the centre in Birmingham comes as a key aspect of the Government’s serious violence strategy in a response to a spate of violent crime linked to the drug trade.

It has been funded for two years by the Home Office, at a cost of £3.6 million and staff will be tasked with taking action against the most serious offenders, whilst working alongside other agencies such as health, welfare and education to create a unified national response.

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