PCC Hardyal Dhindsa has brought together partners from across Derbyshire to discuss how they can work together to prevent the exploitation of young and vulnerable people as part of the drug dealing phenomenon known as County Lines.
The event was opened by Right Reverend Bishop Libby Lane who, as well as being the Bishop of Derby, is the Vice-Chair of the Children’s Society. The Society recently published a report ‘Counting Lives’ which looks at children who are criminally exploited.
Delegates heard from Professor Simon Harding from the University of West London about how fundamental changes to the drugs market have led to 24hr ‘dial-a-drug’ market, run by sophisticated gangs with the drug running and selling being undertaken by children as young as seven in some cases.
Chief Constable Peter Goodman told the conference that the first County Line into Derbyshire was identified in 2013, since when more lines had been identified and disrupted. His plea, echoed by other policing colleagues, was for partners to share concerns and intelligence they might have to help develop a richer intelligence picture to help understand the true extent of County Lines locally.
Police and Crime Commissioner, Hardyal Dhindsa
Speaking after the event PCC Dhindsa said:
“I have worked with police colleagues to pull this event together as I believe we have a window of opportunity to prevent County Lines getting a firm foothold here in Derbyshire.
“It has been helpful to hear from police officers, academics and other stakeholders who have been involved in County Lines in other parts of the country. I think everyone has learned a lot today that will help us take this issue forward in the future.
“The sophistication of these operations has struck me, and it is a shame that this level of business acumen is not being applied in a more positive way.
“This may seem a very glamourous and attractive lifestyle on the surface. However, the powerful personal testimonies from those involved show that this is a highly dangerous way of life, with so called ‘friends’ exploiting vulnerable people and not shying away from the use of shocking levels of violence and coercion to maintain control.
“Young and vulnerable people who get caught up in County Lines should, in my opinion, be considered as victims, even if they have also been involved in activity that breaks the law.
“I now intend to work with the Chief Constable and other senior strategic partners to see how we can to improve the flow of information between agencies.”