Cut forces not cops to stop gangs
The true value of Britain’s illegal drugs trade is difficult to calculate, but a figure of £18billion has been estimated.
Which means the 10,000 children peddling crack cocaine and heroin worth £7billion for the County Lines gangs makes up a hefty chunk of it.
Our disturbing investigation today into the barons who manipulate these children will horrify every parent. And so it should.
Your son or daughter could be a drug mule. Recruits are not just vulnerable kids from broken homes suffering miserable childhoods.
A loving family and a comfortable income is no guarantee these evil predators will not get their hooks into your child.
Which is why today we publish the tell-tale warning signs to look out for which no parent should miss.
The tentacles of County Lines do not just stretch into big cities, but are now creeping into nearly every sleepy hollow in the land.
It is a national problem which needs a national solution. That is why Labour MP Ann Coffey is calling for a national strategy.
In the long term it means teaching kids to protect themselves. Lessons on drugs, and the industry surrounding them, should be compulsory, like sex and relationship education.
But in the short term it is a police matter. And a country with more than 40 separate forces is not equipped for the 21st century challenge of outfits such as County Lines gangs.
So this newspaper advocates a national police force. The £2.3billion of duplicated admin costs that would save makes more sense than Tories cutting 20,000 officers.
Forces with fewer than 4,000 officers – and that’s most of them – cannot adequately cope with the challenges of modern policing.
The only single forces which should remain are in London – and in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the law is different.
County Lines is one more reason why this is a reform whose time has come.