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Taxi drivers could play role in tackling Norwich's County Lines drugs trade

Kevin Maguire, Norwich city councillor. Pic: Archant Library.

Kevin Maguire, Norwich city councillor. Pic: Archant Library.

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City Hall bosses determined to help tackle the problem of County Lines in Norwich are planning to encourage taxi drivers to act as ‘eyes and ears’ to spot young people being made to run drugs by criminals.

It is one of a package of measures which Norwich City Council has unveiled, which also includes finding ways to take action more quickly if tenants are being exploited by drug dealers.

County Lines is a term used to describe the involvement of organised criminal networks and street gangs in moving illegal drugs between cities.

Much of the activity and ‘business’ around it is conducted over a dedicated mobile phone line, with criminals from London exploiting children and vulnerable adults to move and store drugs, money and weapons.

There have been almost a thousand arrests connected to County Lines in Norfolk since police launched Operation Gravity in 2016.

The council has just allocated £50,000 for a safer neighbourhood initiative and is tweaking its own policies and regulations to try to help police.

The council intends to review its licensing policy and procedures over licences for private hire vehicles and hackney carriage drivers.

City Hall officers hope they can encourage such drivers to be ‘eyes and ears’, so they will raise concerns if, for example, they are asked to take youngsters to certain areas at unusual times.

Kevin Maguire, Norwich City Council’s cabinet member for safe city environment, said if license holders need training on how to spot suspicious activity, this will be provided by the council.

They also intend to review tenancy agreements and procedures so action can be taken more quickly if council tenants are ‘cuckooed’ by criminals.

Cuckooing is where drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person to use it as a base for drug dealing.

The initiative could also see alleyways gated, extra lighting and more cleaning of graffiti.

The council can already clean the graffiti from its own buildings, but wants to ‘flex’ its policy so they can be removed from private properties, if building owners are willing.

Mr Maguire, said: “We can do our bit, right now, despite the challenge we too face, to give people in Norwich better peace of mind.”

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