London boroughs unite to beat County Lines gangs

  • By AnaBaric

Almost 700 children and young people – some as young as 11 years old – have been referred to Rescue and Response, a new pan-London programme tackling County Lines.

This includes 21 rescues from County Lines in coastal towns.

The figures were revealed at London Councils’ latest Learning Hub on Serious Youth Violence which shares intelligence and strategies across all of London’s 32 boroughs on how best to beat the organised crime networks that groom and manipulate children into transporting drugs across the country.

Cllr Nickie Aiken, London Councils’ Executive member for Schools and Children's Services, said:

“Organised crime networks are exploiting and abusing an entire generation of young people in London through County Lines. These figures are just the tip of the iceberg. Where we see a young drug pusher, we should be seeing someone who may have been coerced into selling drugs under the threat of violence or through manipulation.

“The complexity of County Lines makes it crucial that local authorities work together to combat this acute problem. This Learning Hub is helping to turbocharge our efforts by bringing together police and councils to share how they can best tackle this epidemic.”

County Lines gangs use a range of techniques to draw innocent young people into criminal activity and modern slavery, such as using a honey trap, a young woman used to entice young men; free food and drugs to entrap young people in debt bondage; and using social media ‘broadcasts’ to entice them to participate in County Lines for easy money.

St Giles Trust, Abianda and Safer London – a consortium of charities involved in Rescue and Response – provided a briefing on the techniques used by County Lines gangs at a workshop of all London boroughs at the Learning Hub earlier this month. The charities presented on how they are supporting vulnerable young people who are being exploited so they can turn their lives around and escape the gangs.

London boroughs shared how their partnership with Rescue and Response has impacted their work locally, as well as how they have used the data from the project to better respond to County Lines and identify children and young people who might be at risk of being drawn in.

As part of its Pledges to Londoners, which have been agreed upon by the Leaders and Mayors of all 32 London boroughs and the City of London Corporation, London Councils has vowed to protect young people from knife crime through collaboration. This Learning Hub is part of that effort and provides the opportunity for cross-borough learning and closer working relationships.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Learning Hub session on County Lines was hosted by London Councils on Wednesday, 9 October 2019.
  2. Rescue and Response is a three-year project supported by all 32 London boroughs and the City of London Corporation with funding from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
  3. The Serious Youth Violence Learning Hubs are open to all London local authority officers with a thematic focus on serious youth violence. Information from previous Hubs can be found on the Repository of Practice on Serious Youth Violence.
  4. From September 2018-19, 694 children and young people have been referred to Rescue and Response, a project that works with young Londoners across the capital affected by County Lines. Since January 2019 the programme rescued 21 children and young people from coastal and regional towns and cities.
  5. This was the fourth Learning Hub session on Serious Youth Violence. It was led by Geeta Subramaniam-Mooney, Chair of London Heads of Community Safety (LHoCS) and London Youth Offending Team (YOT) Assistant Directors. These events encourage collaboration and learning by bringing together different local authorities, including children’s services, youth offending teams and community safety. Previous Serious Youth Violence Learning Hubs have looked at violent crime through experience of the Glasgow model, using education to mitigate the problem, and taking on a trauma-informed approach.