Somerset initiative to stop county lines
Safer Somerset Partnership has today launched a new initiative to help the public identify “County Lines” activity across Somerset. And to encourage them too contact Crimestoppers if they believe County Lines are operating in their local area. County Lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks who export illegal drugs. Specifically trafficking them from one area (usually a city) into another (usually a more rural county). Often the movement of drugs is conducted though dedicated mobile phone lines or another form of “deal line”.
Inevitably Somerset experiences County Lines more than its more urban neighbours. This is because it is a large rural area with convenient access routes into cities such as Bristol and London. With the drug trafficking comes all the associated harm. Drug debt enforcement through violence, “cuckooing,” (taking over a vulnerable person’s home for illegal drug purposes), “turf” conflict between gangs and anti-social behaviour.
Chair of the Safer Somerset Partnership, Avon & Somerset Constabulary Superintendent Mike Prior explains “Through the campaign, we aim at getting the community involved when it comes to identifying signs of drug related exploitative behavior. It will not be overnight in success, but with persistence, continued partnership working and above all education we will overcome County Lines.”
The Safer Somerset Partnership are asking you to think if a young person might be involved in County Lines. They say activity to be aware of might include:
- persistently going missing from school or home, or being found out-of-area
- unexplained acquisition of money, clothes or mobile phone
- excessive receipt of texts or phone calls
- relationships with controlling, older individuals or gang association
- parental concerns, and leaving home or care without explanation
- suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries
- significant decline in school performance and changes in emotional well-being
The campaign particularly aims to raise awareness about County Lines among frontline staff, like teachers and health workers, and those working in transport like Taxi operators and Bus & Coach company staff who are most likely to encounter vulnerable young individuals who are at maximum risk of exploitation.
If you have information that will help the police investigate this crime, and wish to remain anonymous, contact www.crimestoppers-uk.org online or call 0800 555111.