Deal­ers’ tac­tics ex­posed

Drugs: Cam­paign hopes to raise aware­ness of ‘County Lines’ prac­tice

The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) - - NEWS - BY KIRSTEN ROBERT­SON

A cam­paign to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties from drugs be­ing brought to Scot­land by English gangs has been launched.

Crimestop­pers aims to raise aware­ness of County Lines, which is when crim­i­nals from ma­jor cities such as Liver­pool, Manch­ester and Lon­don ex­pand their drug net­works to other ar­eas – bring­ing with them as­so­ci­ated crimes such as vi­o­lence, ex­ploita­tion and abuse.

The term County Lines refers to the use of a sin­gle tele­phone num­ber to or­der drugs, op­er­ated from out­side the lo­cal area.

The gangs, known as syn­di­cates, send a group of three or four deal­ers to an area – of­ten towns like Peter­head and Fraser­burgh – where they know they will not be recog­nised.

Last sum­mer The Press and Jour­nal re­vealed gang­sters hail­ing from Liver­pool were be­hind the ma­jor­ity of the north-east’s or­gan­ised crime.

Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Camp­bell Thom­son said pre­vi­ously that over the past 20 years, se­ri­ous crime groups op­er­at­ing in the city and wider north-east had been “pre­dom­i­nantly” from Eng­land’s north-west.

Just months later the po­lice force vowed to help about 30 peo­ple in Peter­head who were be­ing ex­ploited through “cuck­oo­ing”.

The prac­tice in­volves crim­i­nals forc­ing their way into peo­ple’s homes and us­ing them as a base for ex­pand­ing their oper­a­tions in the area.

The per­pe­tra­tors use fake names and move from one prop­erty to the next in rapid suc­ces­sion, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to catch them in the act.

The County Lines cam­paign will use a series of “spot the signs” posters, post­cards and social me­dia tools to help raise aware­ness of the is­sue across Scot­land.

An­gela Parker, Scot­land na­tional man­ager for Crimestop­pers, said: “County Lines isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a term peo­ple are fa­mil­iar with, but as a char­ity it’s im­por­tant we raise aware­ness of this is­sue and help tackle it.

“Gangs com­ing into our com­mu­ni­ties here in Scot­land, par­tic­u­larly the north-east, are not wel­come.

“We want to en­sure that if they do de­cide to set up their op­er­a­tion here, that your in­for­ma­tion can help get them re­moved and keep com­mu­ni­ties safe.”

As part of the cam­paign, vis­its to sec­ondary schools will be car­ried out to make young peo­ple aware of the is­sues and en­cour­age them to re­port any­thing sus­pi­cious.

De­tec­tive Chief In­spec­tor Mark Bell said: “We are work­ing with our part­ner agen­cies such as Crimestop­pers to iden­tify and sup­port those in our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties who are be­ing ma­nip­u­lated by those solely driven by fi­nan­cial gain.

“Our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties do not want these in­di­vid­u­als and we take ro­bust ac­tion to dis­rupt the harm they cause.”

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion that could help should call 101 or Crimestop­pers on 0800 555111.

Pho­to­graph by Dar­rell Benns

EN­FORCE­MENT: Po­lice of­fi­cers raid­ing a prop­erty in Fraser­burgh – one of the towns English deal­ers of­ten tar­get.

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