William Eichler 20 September 2019

Over 4,000 young people ‘exploited’ by County Lines gangs

New figures released by the Mayor of London’s office have revealed that there are more than 4,000 young people involved in County Lines operating out of London.

County Lines is the term for criminal gangs that exploit young people to help supply drugs across the country using mobile phone networks. An estimated 15% of this criminal activity originates in the capital.

Sadiq Khan invested £3m in 2018 in a three-year Rescue and Response programme to work to better understand, target and respond to County Lines.

The programme is led by the London boroughs of Brent, Lewisham, Islington and Tower Hamlets. They help coordinate support across the city for young people up to the age of 25.

In its first year, 568 young people were referred to the programme, with children as young as 11 identified as having been coerced by criminal gangs.

Those being supported by the programme are linked to lines spread across 41 counties in the UK, with the ‘top five’ being Norfolk, Hampshire, Essex, Sussex and Thames Valley.

‘County Lines operate across the country, exploiting vulnerable young people and driving gang-related violence,’ said Mayor Khan.

‘Now, for the first time, through the Rescue and Response programme funded by City Hall, we are beginning to see the devastating scale of the impact with thousands of young people involved in lines reaching all corners of the country.

‘We are supporting young people where we can, but we know we’re only scratching the surface of a major national issue that is driving violence in London and across the country.’

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