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Drug dealers turning to Airbnb

PUBLISHED: 16:37 17 October 2019

Police raid a property in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Police raid a property in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

County lines drug dealers are moving from cuckooing vulnerable addicts into hiring Airbnb properties.

County lines drug dealers are moving from cuckooing vulnerable addicts into hiring Airbnb properties.

West Norfolk councillors heard the online accommodation portal has been used by drugs gangs to locate premises in some parts of the country.

Dan Wilson, manager of Norfolk County Council's child criminal exploitation team, told the environment and community panel the tactic was on the rise nationally although there had not yet been any cases detected in Norfolk.

He added the county was still one of the safest areas in the country despite recent incidents and demand for drugs had not yet outstripped supply.

An Airbnb spokesman said: "We have zero tolerance for inappropriate or illegal activity, and permanently remove bad actors from our platform.

"While authorities have confirmed this issue is not endemic to Airbnb, we proactively reach out to relevant organisations, including government and law enforcement agencies, on how we can work better together.

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"There have been over half a billion guest arrivals on Airbnb and isolated issues are rare."

She added the site had launched a law enforcement portal creating a secure and streamlined channel for police forces to submit valid legal requests for information from Airbnb.

Nikki Holland, the National Crime Agency (NCA)'s lead on county lines, said: "We know Airbnb is being used, they [the drug gangs] are sending children to stay in short-term lets.

"We're not getting regular intelligence at that level from the community on suspicious behaviour."

County lines is the term used to describe drug dealers who are sent down from London to sell drugs in countryside towns and cities.

More drug dealers from London have been identified in Norfolk than any other county in the country, while Norwich tops the list of cities and towns involved in county lines drug dealing.

Figures released by the Mayor of London on Thursday, show that more than 4,000 people have been recruited by drug gangs in the capital to run networks spread across 41 counties in the UK.

Almost half of those identified were aged between 15 and 19 (46pc) and 90pc were male.

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