Labour-led Islington Council has been leading the way in raising awareness of and the fight against county lines drug dealing, where children and young people are groomed and exploited to sell Class A drugs across the UK.
Cllr Joe Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families spoke at a LGA conference on county lines, where he stressed the need for a national approach to county lines drug dealing. Vulnerable young people in inner city areas such as Islington are ‘groomed’ by gangs to transport drugs as far away as Cornwall, putting their safety at risk.
Islington Council has been leading calls for the Government to develop a national strategy to tackle county lines, and last year Cllr Caluori met the Home Secretary to urge action. The Government has since published its Serious Violence Strategy, which sets out a county lines action plan, including plans for a new National County Lines Co-ordination Centre.
Cllr Caluori, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families, says:
“It is vital we grasp the scale of county lines and identify how many children and young people are at risk. They need to be treated as victims of gang exploitation, not hardened criminals. We need action, not just words, on county lines, otherwise it risks becoming the next grooming scandal.
“The nature of county lines means local authorities cannot tackle the problem alone. That is why we need a national strategy involving the National Crime Agency, local police forces and local authorities so we can share knowledge and support each other. Islington Council has been leading calls for a national strategy, and we are doing all we can locally to keep children and young people safe in the borough.”
Islington Council been working to identify and support young people who are at risk of county lines gang exploitation. This has included training over 100 British Transport Police officers to be aware of county lines drug dealing and identify signs of vulnerable young people using public transport to ferry drugs out of London.
Islington Council is a key member of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) plan in North London, which works with partners across the capital to keep children and young people safe, including by preventing them from being drawn into crime.
The Council is investing an extra £2 million in targeted support for young people most at risk of turning to crime. It has been analysing the rise of young people being arrested for intending to supply drugs, in order to identify potential victims and help them turn away from crime.
Last year, Islington Council launched its youth crime plan, which has shown encouraging signs that young people at risk are turning away from gangs. The Integrated Gangs Unit worked with 133 young people; including 76 directly involved in gangs, 29 at risk of gang involvement, and 28 young victims of crime. The youth crime also includes pledges to combat county lines drug dealing.