Around 600 potential county lines identified in last year alone

8 July 2021, 14:59 | Updated: 8 July 2021, 15:12

Children as young as eight have been involved in county lines, an LBC investigation found
Children as young as eight have been involved in county lines, an LBC investigation found. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Around 600 county lines have been identified by the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre in the last year alone, the latest official figures showed.

The Covid-19 pandemic meant more people were vulnerable and at an increased risk of being exploited by county lines gangs in the process.

This type of drug dealing relies on phone lines to move and supply illegal drugs from cities into more rural areas across the country.

Networks are currently spread across 41 counties, figures show.

This comes as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced further financial support in getting children out of county lines activity.

The Rescue and Response service - set up by the Mayor - helps young people who get caught up in county lines drug distribution networks.

Read more: LBC investigation: County lines gangs exploiting children as young as eight

Read more: 1,100 arrested in national crackdown on county lines drug gangs

Sadiq Khan on supporting young Londoners out of county lines

Mr Khan said: "I'm determined to do everything I can to use the powers and resources I have as Mayor to support our young people who have been exploited by criminal gangs as part of county lines activity.

"Every young person saved from a life of exploitation is a success, so I'm really pleased that our Rescue and Response programme is beginning to have a big impact with nearly 400 young Londoners not only having cut ties with county lines gangs, but now benefiting from ongoing support and positive opportunities.

"We know there is still much more to do and that's why I am investing an additional £1.8m, on top of the £4m already invested, in this critical service to boost capacity so we can rescue more young people and help them into training, education and towards employment."  

The programme works alongside the Met police's efforts to crackdown on and dismantle county lines.

Investigative teams have been set up in London and county areas where the lines run into, meaning they can be shut down at the source.

Since November 2019 the Met has worked with 22 forces all the way from Police Scotland to Devon and Cornwall.

They have closed 460 lines and arrested 960 county lines lineholders.