Southwark was among the London boroughs referring the greatest number of young people to a programme tackling the problem of ‘county lines’ dealing, new data reveals.
County lines gangs are where youngsters from big cities are used to transport drugs to regional towns and cities for sale – with criminals using dedicated phone numbers to take orders.
The practice often involves coercion and intimidation, including sexual violence, with criminals using social media networks to recruit vulnerable young people into the practise.
The City Hall report also reveals that 4,013 people in London, the youngest of whom was just eleven-years-old, were discovered or suspected to be involved in county lines activity between January 2018 and April 2019.
In Southwark, 35 young people were referred to the City Hall-funded ‘Rescue and Response’ programme which aims to provide interventions to vulnerable people at risk of getting sucked into the gangs.
Only the boroughs of Newham, Lambeth and Croydon – all with 37 individuals – had more referrals in the same period, according to the data.
In total, 568 were referred to the project in its first year, while the counties of Norfolk, Hampshire and Essex were identified as the most likely locations for county lines exporting from London.
“County Lines operate across the country, exploiting vulnerable young people and driving gang-related violence,” said Mayor Sadiq Khan.
“We are supporting young people where we can, but we know we’re only scratching the surface of a major national issue that is driving violence in London and across the country.”
Criminals who have been convicted of the practice include a member of the Silwood Nation drill group from Bermondsey, nineteen-year-old Daniel Olaloko.
When officers raided Olaloko’s flat at the University of Central Lancashire in April last year, they discovered ‘large amounts’ of Class A drugs, a sword and knives.
Olaloko, also known by his stage name ‘Trigga T’, was sentenced to seven years behind bars for his role leading the county lines gang supplying drugs from London to Preston.
In January, the National Crime Agency estimated there to be around 2,000 deal line numbers and an estimated 1,000 branded county lines in operation, most commonly supplying crack cocaine and heroin.