MP says the police are fighting an ‘invisible enemy’
THE “life-sucking social cancer” and “devastating phenomenon” of county lines is wasting too many lives, destroying too many families and wrecking too many communities, an MP has warned.
Carolyn Harris, MP for Swansea East, delivered the warning during a Parliamentary debate last week in the wake of the Metropolitan Police launching its 100th murder investigation this year, and dubbed the problem an “invisible enemy”.
In March 28 people were jailed for a total of 193 years as part of a Dyfed-Powys Police operation which targeted the supply of Class A drugs into towns and cities, including Llanelli.
Mrs Harris told of how towns and cities, including Llanelli and Swansea, were being lost due to criminal exploitation where gangs and organised crime networks exploit children to sell drugs.
During the debate brought by Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham, Mrs Harris said: “Over the summer the Metropolitan Police launched their 100th murder investigation. And in towns and cities all over the UK, the dynamic of crime and the necessity to change attitudes in policing has never been greater.
“I have seen it first hand in my own city where the excellent South Wales Police are fighting, in many cases, an invisible enemy. Faceless in appearance, but devastating in actions.”
She added: “We are losing cities and towns up and down the country to the devastating phenomenon of county lines. Drugs, trafficking, prostitution and community devastation are the dreadful consequences of this lifesucking social cancer.”
Mrs Harris, who is also Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities and Home Affairs, said children’s lives were being put at risk following a rise in violent crime. She said it was vital to swell the ranks of police officers to combat the threat.
“They are taking our children’s lives, both metaphorically and literally,” she said.
“We must stop thinking that current police numbers and the availability of social and community work is adequate.
“The level of support, training and intervention this government needs to be looking at is far beyond what they are currently prepared to offer. Serious violence is threatening to overwhelm our communities, and I regret to say this government is nowhere to be seen.
“The number of children aged between 10 and 15 being treated for stab wounds has increased by 69% since 2013. More than half of the crimes against children from that same age group are related to violence.”
She added: “The Children’s Commissioner has shown that a total of 70,000 youths aged up to 25 are feared to be part of a gang network. Too many lives are being wasted. Too many families destroyed. Too many communities devastated.”
She said ministers were failing to grasp the surge in serious violence and said the Ending Gang Violence and Exploitation Fund, which is part of the Serious Violence Strategy, was insufficient at £300,000.
She added children were the victims of austerity and rising poverty with 120,000 children homeless, more than 70,000 in care and many thousands excluded from school.
“The consequences for many hundreds of families are devastating,” she said. “Vital services are being pared back as a result of local authority cuts, meaning that families arrive into the system when they are already at crisis point. Violent crime has more than doubled in the last five years and is now at record levels.
“Last year alone, offences involving firearms increased by 11% while those involving knives and sharp instruments increased by double that.
“I could regale to you reams of examples. And despite the stories I could tell, the Ending Gang Violence and Exploitation Fund will be just £300,000. Hardly a commitment to tackle the reality of the serious crime that is in our towns and cities.
“The time has passed for talking: we need to be protecting our cities, our communities, our children. It is time for this government to invest appropriately.”
The Home Office was contacted for a comment.