The number of drug dealing ‘county lines’ have nearly tripled across the country in one year, while the networks are fueling the rise in London crime.
The known number of ‘country lines’ — named for the mobile phone ‘lines’ used to coordinate drug distribution — has risen from 720 from 2017 to 2018 to 2,000 from 2018 to 2019, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has found.
The drug gang networks often use children and adolescents to traffic drugs from larger metropolitan areas and cities to customers in English suburbs. The technique was believed to have started in London, Liverpool, and Birmingham, but now 23 other areas of the country are considered ‘exporters.’
Children aged 15 to 17 are most vulnerable to getting pulled into county lines, with drug dealers using similar methods to child rape gangs to lure, groom, and abuse children in their criminal networks.
“Often the young people don’t see themselves as victims. Instead they are flattered by the attention and gifts they receive, so are less likely to speak to law enforcement,” the NCA said in their assessment.
The crime agency said the report followed a week of coordinated policing, where over 600 individuals involved in county lines were arrested nationwide.
In our session today, the @NCA_UK updated the Committee on the number of 'county line' drug distribution networks which are active in the UK, showing a significant increase since 2017 #CountyLines pic.twitter.com/1BewqOFczN
— Home Affairs Committee (@CommonsHomeAffs) January 29, 2019
In addition to the arrests, police forces and Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) were able to intervene and support 400 vulnerable adults and 600 children were engaged for safeguarding purposes between January 21st and 27th.
Over 140 weapons were seized including firearms, knives, swords, and machetes. Officers seized cash of more than £200,00 as well as significant amounts of drugs including cocaine and heroine.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) also said Tuesday that county lines were responsible for the rise of London’s violent crime, with four out of our out of five organised criminal gangs involved in drugs distribution, according to the Evening Standard.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Duncan Ball, NPCC Lead for County Lines, told the Home Affairs Select Committee that “turf wars” provided “plenty of examples of violence by drug dealers or users to establish territory or control a situation.”
Also on Tuesday, a pair of county lines drug dealers were found guilty of murdering a man in the university city of Cambridge.
Drug dealer Juned Ahmed, 18, and his “protector” Ashraf Hussan, 20, both from east London, were found guilty of the murder of Peter Anderson, 46, who was stabbed eight times in July after arranging to buy drugs from the county line known as the ‘RJ Line’, reports the BBC.