A £20 million package of measures has been launched by the government to tackle county lines.
Home secretary Priti Patel has announced the measures to intensify law enforcement efforts to disrupt the county lines model where gangs distribute drugs through vulnerable adults and children.
Under the measures, the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre will be expanded and receive investment to enable it to increase its activity, providing strengthened capability and capacity at a regional and national level to disrupt county lines. This will include placing more officers and staff into the centre and providing additional strategic resource to regional organised crime units.
A multi-agency team of experts are brought together in the centre including professionals from the National Crime Agency (NCA), police officers and regional organised crime units to tackle county lines through sharing intelligence, working with partners across government and taking concerted action.
The National County Lines Co-ordination Centre has co-ordinated action which led to over 1,800 arrests and has safeguarded over 2,400 vulnerable people – including more than 1,000 children since it opened a year ago.
The government will develop an expanded national specialist support service to help young people and their families exit their involvement in county lines.
Rail networks remain a key method of transportation for county lines gangs. Under the plans, there will be increased disruption on rail networks including British Transport Police teams that work exclusively on county lines, and will be based at a number of railway stations across England that are key hubs for county lines drug trafficking.
There will be further investment in technology to disrupt county lines operations. Roads are also used to transport offenders, victims, drugs, cash and weapons and enhanced data analysis using automatic number plate recognition will enable police to proactively target vehicles suspected of being linked to county lines activity.
As county lines is a cash-driven activity, the government will intensify operations to identify opportunities to take action against money service bureaus, enabling increased cash seizures and arrests for money laundering.
Priti Patel said the measures would “significantly bolster” the government’s response to tackling county lines. Alongside the measures, the Chancellor announced in September a formal review to identify the powers, capabilities, governance and funding needed to develop the government’s response to serious and organised crime ahead of a full spending review next year.