Hastings, High Wycombe, Grimsby and other rural and coastal towns will receive new Government support to tackle gang violence and exploitation, amid evidence that drug runners are increasingly operating well outside of their inner city heartlands.
Gang members are moving into drugs markets outside the urban areas they live and operate in, to avoid competition from rival gangs and to capitalise on non-metropolitan police forces with less experience of gang activity, a Home Office report said.
The problem of so-called “county lines” – which refers to the phone numbers used by drug dealers – has been growing in recent years, and has led to the exploitation of vulnerable younger people who are recruited by gangs to transport drugs around the country.
In total, nine areas – including Eastbourne, Medway and Swindon – will receive new targeted support from the Home Office, including expert advice to ensure local forces can better understand the nature of gang-related violence and exploitation.
A National Crime Agency (NCA) report on county lines published last August found that more than half of the areas affected were coastal towns and 15 per cent were commuter towns near London.
Home Office minister Bradley said: “Gang and youth violence has a devastating impact on young people, their families and local communities.
UK news in pictures
UK news in pictures
1/18 23 June 2017
British Prime Minister Theresa May addresses a news conference at the EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 23, 2017
2/18 22 June 2017
Cosplay fans (L-R) George Massingham, Abbey Forbes and Karolina Goralik travel by tube dressed in Harry Potter themed costumes, after a visit to one the literary franchise's movie filming locations at Leadenhall Market in London, Britain
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Two women embrace in Borough Market, which officially re-opens today following the recent attack, in central London
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attends the re-opening of Borough market in central London following the June 3 terror attack
People walk through Borough Market in central London following its re-opening after the June 3 terror attack
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15/18 11 June 2017
England players celebrate after defeating Venezuela 1-0 to win the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea 2017 at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
16/18 11 June 2017
England players celebrate with the trophy after the final match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2017 between Venezuela and England at Suwon World Cup Stadium in Suwon, South Korea
17/18 11 June 2017
Great Britain's Alistair Brownlee celebrates winning the Elite Men Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds
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18/18 11 June 2017
Two men drink beer outside the Southwark Tavern which reopened for business today next to an entrance to Borough Market which remains closed in London
“That’s why today we are providing more targeted support, which will allow local police and authorities to identify how best to address local challenges and identify the right measures to tackle gang-related violence and exploitation…We want to work in towns across England to make this a success.”
The NCA’s report on county lines last year identified it as an issue on a national scale, which now affects the majority of UK police forces and which almost always involves the exploitation of vulnerable people – either children or adults who require safeguarding.
Gangs use a single telephone number for drug deals, and dealers advertise through ‘business cards’.
A second Home Office report, based on surveys of police, probation and health services in 33 areas around the country, indicated that gangs were becoming “less visible” in the last two years, and were more likely to be linked to organised crime groups.
Most respondents said that gang members were now likely to be older, but there were increased concerns about the exploitation of younger people, including the sexual exploitation of girls. A small number of survey respondents in London reported gang members as young as nine years old.
Gangs were also found to have “substantial online presence”, with the use of social media was thought to be increasing in some areas.Reuse content