The UK response to county lines drug crime has been significantly strengthened as the £3.6 million National County Lines Coordination Centre became fully operational today (Friday 21 September).
A new multi-agency 38-strong team of experts from the National Crime Agency (NCA), police forces and regional organised crime units will work together to develop the national intelligence picture of the complexity and scale of the threat, prioritise action against the most serious offenders, and engage with partners across government, including in the health, welfare and education spheres, to tackle the wider issues.
What Is County Lines?
County lines crime relates to the supply of Class A drugs, primarily crack cocaine and heroin, from urban cities to market towns, coastal areas and rural locations by young people, using a branded mobile phone line.
Gangs and criminal networks use extreme violence and intimidation to establish and maintain markets, with practices including forcing vulnerable people from their homes to establish a base to sell drugs.
The county lines model involves modern slavery and exploitation of children alongside drugs supply and violent crime.
The video below, made by the Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner and CrimeStoppers, outlines what County Lines is, and what you can do if you suspect something.
More details on County Lines can be found on the Fearless website.
Investigating County Lines
The most recent national assessment of county lines, compiled by the NCA, suggests that there were more than 1000 lines in operation nationally with links to increasing levels of serious violence.
There are already 200 active county lines investigations underway, but the introduction of the centre will allow police forces to intensify their operations.
What Else Is Being Done?
The National County Lines Coordination Centre is the latest measure in the government’s response to the recent rise in serious violence, set out in the £40 million Serious Violence Strategy, which places a new focus on early intervention alongside robust law enforcement.
As part of the strategy’s analysis into the rise in violent crime, county lines and the broader drugs market was identified as one of the key drivers. Between 2014 to 2015 and 2016 to 2017, homicides where either the victim or suspect were known to be involved in using or dealing illicit drugs increased from 50% to 57%.
In addition to the National County Lines Coordination Centre, a number of Home Office measures are already in place to tackle county lines. The £13 million Trusted Relationship Fund helps foster relationships between frontline professionals and young people at risk of exploitation. Local areas facing new gang-related threats can apply for match funding reviews and guidance for frontline professionals on how to identify potential victims.