Tackling a particularly nasty drug dealing tactic in the city is a new priority for Brighton & Hove’s Community Safety Partnership.
That’s the message of a report going to the Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities & Equalities (NICE) committee on 22 January.
‘County lines’ is the police term used to describe a national issue of urban gangs supplying drugs – primarily heroin and crack cocaine – to towns across the country using mobile phone lines. Gangs establish a base, typically by taking over the homes of local vulnerable adults by force or coercion, in a practice known as ‘cuckooing’. Gangs also often use children and vulnerable people to move drugs and money.
The activity and associated violence, drug dealing and exploitation can have a major impact on young people, vulnerable adults and local communities.
Targeted Sussex Police operations regularly disrupt drug dealing. The latest in the city last year led to 76 arrests for drug supply offences and the disruption of 14 county lines. However, demand in the city means that new drug dealers quickly take the place of those arrested.
The experience gained from a situation where a number of addresses were taken over last year has been shared across council and partner services. This will help make sure signs of cuckooing and county lines are identified early, and gives guidance on the action that can be taken to deal with the issue and support the communities affected.
Councillor Emma Daniel, chair of the NICE committee, said: “County lines is a particularly nasty crime as it preys on the young and vulnerable. The gangs operate here due to the high demand for drugs, and we’ve seen the significant impact it and the associated anti-social behaviour has on neighbourhoods.”
“We’re asking parents to be alert to the dangers. We’re clear that any children and young people who get drawn into this are victims of crime. If you have any concerns about a young or vulnerable person in your neighbourhood, please do report them to make sure they can get the help they need.
“Please also report any suspicions you have about a property. Effective action to tackle the problems relies on early reporting and solid evidence, and we will work across services to tackle the problem as soon as we can.”
Chief Inspector Chris Veale of Sussex Police said: “We have robust working practices in the city for dealing with cuckooed homes, including gathering intelligence, executing drugs warrants, closing premises quickly using ASB Act powers, supporting vulnerable and displaced residents, and taking direct action against perpetrators of crime.”
If you have suspicions or information about drug dealing, please contact the police at any time online at www.sussex.police.ukor by calling 101, quoting Project Preclude.
For information about reporting anti-social behaviour in the city, visit www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/asb or call the community safety team on 01273 292375.
The full report is available in the Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities & Equalities committee papers (agenda item 59).