Call to protect London’s vulnerable young people from county lines drug dealing exploitation
Islington Council is leading a cross-party call for the Government to help protect vulnerable young people at risk of exploitation in ‘county lines’ drug-dealing operations run by older gang members.
County lines’ is a model of organised class A drug dealing where established operators, usually gangs, expand their operations into underdeveloped drugs markets in seaside towns and market towns outside London. The older gang members reduce their personal risks and maximise profits by grooming vulnerable young people to travel sometimes hundreds of miles to these towns, to transport and sell the drugs – usually crack cocaine and heroin – then return to their gangmasters with the proceeds.Exploited vulnerable children from London, some as young as 12, have been found operating county lines in locations as far away as Cornwall and south Wales.
Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington’s executive member for children, young people and families, has written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP asking for a meeting to discuss the issue. The letter is co-signed by the lead members for children’s services in 19 London boroughs, across the political spectrum.
The letter warns “county lines” needs a national approach. By their very nature, county lines operations transcend geographical boundaries, meaning a truly effective strategy and action plan needs to be drawn up at a national level, involving the input of the National Crime Agency, local police forces and local authorities across the country and particularly in London.
Cllr Caluori said: “We have seen in Islington how organised gangs are trying to minimise their risks and maximise their profits by grooming and exploiting vulnerable young people to run drugs, money and even weapons to remote locations.
“Our local assessment showed that vulnerable young people in Islington and right across London are at risk of involvement in county lines drug dealing.
“We have come together as senior local politicians in 19 London boroughs to request this meeting because we know the damage county lines drug dealing can cause to young lives in our communities.
"This problem crosses local authority and police boundaries, and by its very nature requires a national solution from the Home Office. We all need to work together on this to safeguard vulnerable young people – and urgently.”
+ The authorities whose relevant lead members have co-signed the letter are: Islington, Barking & Dagenham, Brent, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Haringey, Harrow, Hounslow, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth.
+ Recent National Crime Agency reports on county lines drug dealing can be found here: 2015, 2016.
+ The Catch22.org report Running The Risks (July 2015) outlines the link between young people going missing and county lines operations nationally