The persistence of “county lines” drug dealers means that some police forces don’t have the resources they need to tackle the networks operating in their communities.
The growth in the exploitative trade that sees organised gangs moving drugs out of urban areas to smaller towns or villages has reached the point where there are an estimated 2,000 identifiable lines in the country.
The seaside towns of Morecambe and Blackpool in Lancashire have both seen drug gangs repeatedly target their communities by commandeering properties and finding young vulnerable couriers to move their drugs for them.
Despite numerous high profile and successful policing operations in the county, the officer leading on the issue in Lancashire conceded that they can’t intercept as many lines as they’d like.
DCI Rebecca Smith said: Those that are exploiting vulnerable children, vulnerable adults, cuckooing, using serious violence, using threats they will obviously be prioritised and we score those under a matrix as to the harm those particular groups cause and that’s how we prioritise them.
Obviously we do have to do that because we haven’t got the resources to deal with it all.
Her force was part of a coordinated police operation yesterday targeting a line running from Liverpool to Lancashire, Cumbria and onto Perth in Scotland.
Officers arrested 36 people on Merseyside, five from Lancashire, two in Cumbria, and officers from British Transport Police arrested three people on the rail network.
Class A drugs and an imitation firearm were also recovered.
The police are adamant their operations are effective but continued demand for drugs means the lines are often reestablished soon after they are broken down.
Merseyside Assistant Chief Constable Ian Critchley said: Those responsible for these County Lines bring misery to our local communities through their drug dealing and they also target and coerce young and vulnerable people into doing their dirty work.
Here on Merseyside we have arrested 112 people and shutdown 32 County Lines since November last year.
When it comes to the young and vulnerable people, who have been criminally exploited, we ensure that they are treated sensitively and with understanding.
Last October the home secretary, Priti Patel, announced a funding boost of £20m to help the fight against county lines and to help vulnerable adults and children who have been exploited by criminal gangs.
(c) Sky News 2020: Police call for more help to deal with ‘county lines’ drug gangs