Cut forces not cops to stop gangs

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - News -

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.

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