In a phenomenon known as ‘county lines,’ gangs from Britain’s major cities are targeting smaller towns and rural areas to sell drugs and expand their criminal networks.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) estimates that there are around 720 county lines up and down the country, and Bournemouth is just one of the many stops on these vast networks.
On why gangsters might be targeting a town like Bournemouth, PC Adam McCue, campus police officer at Bournemouth University, had this to say: “There are easy travel links from London to Dorset via National Express or a 2-hour drive from the London area.”
He then went onto say: “The county areas usually have a smaller Police force and a larger area to cover making it more appealing for them [gang members] to look to conduct their business here.”
County lines are built on child coercion. Speaking on the matter, Liberal Democrat MP, Tony Trent, said this: “My fear is that with the easy rail links to London and Southampton, our young people could be in the front line for drug gang recruiters. People are reluctant to report things to the Police, and this is creating space within which gang builders can operate.”
The Children’s Commissioner – public body in England responsible for promoting and protecting the rights of children, estimates that are at least 46,000 children in England have been lured into gang activity.
The Commissioner also reveals that these children will go on to be perceived as criminals rather than potential victims of exploitation.
Tackling the Issue
Giving his final words on county lines, Trent said this: “Towns in Dorset should be vigilant and help nip this problem in the bud. This includes sharing information and suspicions with Police and demanding that other agencies are also on the ball and doing their bit to prevent the problems from taking hold.”
One police officer – who requests anonymity – wanted to maintain that the police are doing their utmost to tackle the issue: “We are always liaising with different counties, with regards to sharing intelligence. This allows our safer neighbourhood teams to focus on at-risk areas.”