Government announces £3.6m to tackle county lines drug dealing

Home Secretary Amber Rudd speaking about violent crime at the Coin St Neighbourhood Centre in London

Home Secretary Amber Rudd speaking about violent crime at the Coin St Neighbourhood Centre in London. Picture John Stillwell/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Millions of pounds of government cash to help police in the fight against the spread of violence from drug gangs has been welcomed by the chief of Norfolk police.

Norfolk Constabulary has been targeting 'county line' drug dealing since November 2016, when a slew of drug-related violence and stabbings across the county prompted them to declare a critical incident.

On Monday the Home Secretary announced plans to develop a new National County Lines Coordination Centre to deal with violent crime across the country.

During her speech Amber Rudd said 'county lines drug dealing has become an increasingly popular way of dealing drugs' and referenced a conversation with Norfolk Constabulary's Chief Constable Simon Bailey in which 'he made it clear what a problem this is for local police forces'.

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Ms Rudd said 70pc of police forces have reported significant increases in violent crime linked to county lines, including torture and murder.

The government will provide £3.6m to support the coordination centre which is currently being developed by the National Police Chiefs Council and the National Crime Agency.

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Chief Constable Bailey said: 'I firmly believe there needs to be a more co-ordinated response which is why I welcome this £3m plus to create a national county lines co-ordination centre.

'I think we have been successful in tackling the threat and we have developed a brand which is recognised across the county.

'We have invested a lot in the schools education programme and we have undertaken regular operations targeting those plotting to sell drugs and we have made really significant arrests.

'There still remains a really significant challenge for Norfolk and the vast majority of forces in the country.'

County lines drug dealing involves gangs grooming and using children and vulnerable young people to traffic drugs into new locations outside their home areas.

In late 2016 Norfolk Constabulary launched Operation Gravity to make life harder for London drug gangs funnelling crack and heroin into Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn. This has resulted in hundreds of arrests and a number of high profile convictions.

While violence in Norfolk has fallen, last December, a National Crime Agency Report (NCA) report stressed the 'true scale of abuse' of vulnerable children by county line gangs remains unknown.

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