County Lines – Week of Action

Police forces across the UK boosted activity against county lines gangs in the week from 17 to 23 May. Nationally, this resulted in the arrest of 1,100 people and the seizure of 292 weapons. In Northumbria, 23 people were arrested and over £20,000 was seized.

Detective Chief Inspector Sue Fryer, the Northumbria Force lead for County Lines said: “This has been a monumental effort with officers from every department coming together from across the Force to take a stand against a brutal form of drug dealing which exploits those caught up in it.

“County Lines is an aggressive method which tries to sell large quantities of addictive substances to vulnerable people to line the pockets of those involved and we will not tolerate this in our area.

“Our approach to tackling this vile type of criminality is to not only pursue offenders, dismantle their operations and bring them before the courts, but educating the wider community about just how harmful the practice is and protect those at risk of becoming involved.

“While we do not see the levels of violence associated with County Lines dealing prevalent in other areas here in the North East, we are working hard to keep it that way.”

The week of action also saw a range of partnership work delivered by teams from our Safeguarding Department, as well as continued diversionary work to steer young people away from crime through the Violence Reduction Unit.

Our teams also carried out a range of work to help educate local authorities and our partners about the ways in which organised criminals can prey on vulnerable young people – from exploiting and grooming them into becoming mules and couriers, to taking over their accommodation in a practice known as cuckooing.  

Det Ch Insp Fryer added: “I would like to thank everyone involved for all their hard work throughout this operation. We cannot tackle County Lines in isolation and will continue to work alongside our partners in law enforcement, the local authorities and public health to ensure we bring perpetrators to justice, safeguard the vulnerable and protect our communities from the ripple effects of this.

“I would also like to remind the public they have a part to play in this as well – please don’t turn a blind eye to this.”

What is County Lines?

County Line is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas [within the UK], using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of “deal line”. They are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move [and store] the drugs and money and they will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons.

This short film from the National County Lines Coordination Centre (NCLCC) highlights what County Lines is and it’s impact on children, adults, families and communities.

The NCLCC have also this week published their County Lines Strategic Assessment 2020/1. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for county lines said “The assessment details the huge strides that have been made, across all 43 Police forces, who have worked in conjunction with the National Crime Agency (NCA) to tackle this terrible criminality. This success has only been possible due to the enormous efforts across policing, the regions, the NCA and partner agencies. Although we have made huge inroads in tackling this type of offending, it has not been solved. We still have much to do to ensure that we create an environment where the county lines offending model is high risk and as hostile as possible to line holders and their associates, to protect our communities.”

Reporting concerns

Please visit our Report a Concern page to find out how you can report concerns of county lines or other forms of exploitation in Newcastle. If someone is in immediate danger, please contact emergency services.

You can report anonymously via Crimestoppers.

Find out more

You can find out more about the week of action by reading the following articles: