Both sides of the coin: An inspection of how the police and National Crime Agency consider vulnerable people who are both victims and offenders in 'county lines' drug offending
‘County lines’ is a term used to describe crimes involving gangs and organised criminal networks moving illegal drugs around the UK. Typically, this will involve moving drugs out from large cities and urban areas to sell in rural communities.
In its Serious Violence Strategy, published in April 2018, the Government identified strong links between increases in violence and the exploitation of children and vulnerable adults by criminal drug dealers operating ‘county lines’. The strategy included a commitment that HMICFRS would carry out an inspection of police forces’ ability to identify, respond to and disrupt county lines-related criminality and abuse.
In 2019, HMICFRS inspected how county lines drug trafficking is dealt with at local, regional and national levels. We concentrated on how the police and National Crime Agency identify and treat children and other vulnerable people involved in county lines offending.
For this inspection, we:
- analysed documents and data;
- visited the national county lines co-ordination centre, three regional organised crime units and ten police forces;
- visited British Transport Police (which polices the rail network across Great Britain) because rail travel is a common feature of county lines offending;
- interviewed relevant staff in each location; and
- consulted representatives from other bodies.