New research reveals extent of drug gang networks operating in UK

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More than 4,000 people in London have been recruited by drug gangs with networks spread across 41 counties in the UK, figures show.
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Research released by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, shows that thousands of people aged between 11 and 62 have been drawn into so-called ‘county lines’ gangs.

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New research shows the extent of drug gangs operating across the UKNew research shows the extent of drug gangs operating across the UK
New research shows the extent of drug gangs operating across the UK

The criminal networks deliberately target children and vulnerable adults to courier drugs from urban bases out to customers across the country, running phone lines to take orders.

Police chiefs say the gangs affect every force area in England and Wales and are linked to violent crime.

It is estimated that around 15 per cent of county lines activity originates in London.

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The 4,013 individuals identified in the capital between January 2018 and April 2019 are linked to ‘lines’ that spread across 41 counties in the UK, the most being in Norfolk, Hampshire, Essex, Sussex and Thames Valley.

Most gang member were aged between 15 and 19.

In 2018 Mr Khan gave £3 million over three years for a Rescue and Response programme to try to rescue under-25s who were lured into county lines.

The first year saw 568 young people referred to the programme, including children as young as 11.

Of the 568, 243 were referred to support services under the programme and 33 have been successfully drawn away from gang activity to date.

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Mr Khan said: "County lines operate across the country, exploiting vulnerable young people and driving gang-related violence.

"Now, for the first time, through the Rescue and Response programme funded by City Hall, we are beginning to see the devastating scale of the impact with thousands of young people involved in lines reaching all corners of the country."

The National Crime Agency, which jointly runs the National County Lines Coordination Centre with the National Police Chiefs' Council, has estimated there are more than 2,000 individual deal line telephone numbers in operation in the UK with annual profits for each in excess of £800,000.