Getting to the roots of County Lines gangs

More vulnerable people have been safeguarded against, and drugs and weapons taken from County Lines gangs during a week of intensification in the East Midlands recently.


The five regional police forces, supported by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) and other partners, took part in the nationally-coordinated action aimed at disrupting those involved in County Lines drug dealing and identifying and protecting those they threaten and coerce into committing crime.


County Lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in moving illegal drugs from one area of the country to another, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of ‘deal line’. They are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move [and store] the drugs and money. They will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons.


Throughout the week (Monday 4 October – Sunday 9 October) 65 people were arrested across the East Midlands force areas (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire), more than £20,000-worth of Class A and B drugs and £22,000 in cash were seized, and 28 weapons, including a live gun and imitation firearms, were recovered. There were also 69 people, identified as vulnerable, who were safeguarded.


Click here for the national figures.


As well as undertaking warrants across the region, officers and staff engaged with people in spaces or at businesses and organisations that may see more County Lines activity, such as at transport hubs and hotels.


EMSOU’s Regional Vulnerabilities Coordinator Stuart Jones said: “At EMSOU, we ensure police activity against County Lines in the region is a coordinated approach, in a bid to get to the roots of these groups as well as identify and eradicate its invasive and destructive tendrils that creep across force and county boundaries.


“The results from this week are just a snapshot of the work we achieve throughout the year as five forces united against these types of criminals. We also work with other agencies and organisations, such as BTP on the trains, Crimestoppers and the Children’s Society, in order to identify and safeguard their victims.


“County Lines gangs are being forced to adapt their methods as a result of police disruption, both in the movement of drugs and cash, and in the recruitment of runners. They are tenacious and they are violent in their bid to make money, with absolutely no care as to who they hurt in the process.


“Hijacking a vulnerable person’s home, and forcing them to get involved in cooking or storing drugs, is servitude, using a young person to deliver drugs is people trafficking, and we will not hesitate to pursue charges under the Modern Slavery Act against such perpetrators, the maximum penalty for which is life imprisonment.”


You can help in the fight against the harm caused by County Lines. #LookCloser for signs that a young person you know is being victimised by County Lines gangs.


Has their behaviour changed recently? Are they sounding or dressing differently? Hanging around with a new, possibly older, group? Have they been skipping school or going missing? Are they flashing the cash? Do they operate more than one mobile phone? Are they travelling around more? These can be indicators of exploitation. Find out more here.


If you have information about drug dealing in your area, or if you’re concerned that someone you know may be involved in County Lines, contact your local force as soon as possible on 101, or contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111 or via www.fearless.org.