The emergence of the County Lines drug supply methodology, which involves gangs using mobile phone lines to deal drugs from urban areas to counties and rural towns, exploiting children and vulnerable people to move and supply drugs, highlights some familiar challenges we face when tackling serious organised crime.
Many aspects of the County Lines model are not new in themselves, but its core element is the significant movement of people and commodities across regional boundaries. We are regularly seeing exploited children or gang members travelling hundreds of miles across the country, presenting a challenge both for building a comprehensive picture of the threat and delivering an effective response.
County Lines also provides a compelling example of a cross-cutting threat, engaging drugs, firearms, child sexual exploitation and modern slavery issues. Our ability to prioritise the response to criminality which engages a number of threats, but is not assessed to be at the highest end of any one of those threats, has also been challenged.
The activity underway to tackle county lines, building on good practice developed by a number of forces and agencies, is focused on delivering a multi-agency response to pursue the gangs, safeguard vulnerable people and disrupt the methodology. This will only be achieved if we can develop a common understanding of the threat and its priority, identify systems that will allow us to share data, and collaborate effectively across forces, agencies and local authorities.