Met officers made more than 200 arrests and seized over one million pounds worth of drugs during a week-long crackdown on County Lines gangs.
The week, which ran from Monday, 27 February to Sunday, 5 March, focused on those running county lines in London who cause violence and anti-social behaviour in communities.
In several cases, vulnerable children are preyed on by offenders and used as a commodity, placing them into an incredibly dangerous environment. Instead of criminalising these children, officers work with Rescue and Response to ensure they are safeguarded and supported.
The 222 arrests also led to:
- 105 people charged with a total of 223 charges;
- 150 drug trafficking charges;
- 131 Class A and B drug charges;
- 177 vulnerable people safeguarded;
- 77 lines being closed.
Officers also seized:
- 8.3 kilograms of Class A drugs and 37.6 kilograms Class B drugs;
- £652,214 in cash;
- Five firearms and 51 weapons including knives, machetes and swords.
Detective Superintendent Rick Sewart, Lead Responsible Officer for County Lines in the Met, said: “County lines is intrinsically linked to homicide and serious violence and 80 per cent of county lines offenders charged with drug trafficking this year have previously been arrested for violence.
“County lines networks prey upon children and young people, trafficking them and subjecting them to modern slavery involving horrendous emotional and physical abuse. Victims are coerced through violence, blackmail and debt bondage, to hold and supply drugs.
“Those involved use weapons and serious violence including kidnaps to intimidate and threaten victims.
“County lines networks also prey upon the vulnerable to fuel Class A drug addiction, which poses huge-socio economic consequences for communities; increasing anti-social behaviour and acquisitive crimes, including burglary and robbery.
“The Met takes a multi-agency approach to tackling county lines and exploitation, working with partners to protect the vulnerable through prevention and diversion.
“The Met is committed to relentlessly pursue those responsible for county lines drug supply, bringing them to justice for their abhorrent crimes.”
The Met has closed more than 1,800 lines and arrested more than 3,300 county line offenders since November 2019. In the same period, the Met’s Operation Orochi County Lines Taskforce has used data-driven precision methodology to arrest more than 1,100 line holders, resulting in 88 per cent being charged and 94 per cent convicted.
The taskforce has charged 60 defendants with 86 modern slavery offences. Building upon this success, Operation Yamata was launched in April 2022, using the same data-driven approach to dismantle drug supply networks across the capital, intrinsically linked to homicide and serious violence. In October 2022 Commissioner Mark Rowley expanded this operation as part of his vision to deliver ‘precise community crime fighting’.
James Simmonds-Read, National Prevention Programme Manager from the Children Society, said: “It’s crucial that professionals can identify when children have been exploited by criminals, so we are pleased that many vulnerable people - including young people - have been identified to receive support.
“Any child in any community can be groomed and exploited and that includes children entering adulthood.”
Rescue and Response | Abianda is a pan-London service that supports London young people aged up to 25 who are involved in or affected by county lines activity.
Catch 22 is a specialist support and rescue service for young people and their families who are criminally exploited through county lines.
#LookCloser is a partnership campaign between The Children’s Society, the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre and the British Transport Police, encouraging everyone to learn the signs of child exploitation and how to report it if worried, including here on their anonymous online form. The campaign also seeks to highlight that child exploitation can happen anywhere, and any young person can be a victim. Find out more at the campaign webpage.
The SafeCall service, run by charity Missing People, offers confidential, non-judgemental support to young people and their families.
Victim Support is an independent charity in England and Wales that provides specialist practical and emotional support to victims and witnesses of crime.
For more advice on drugs, their effects and the law, talk to Frank.
The Home Office also provides guidance for frontline professionals on dealing with County Lines, as a part of the government’s approach to ending gang violence and exploitation. Click here to see details of their advice.