Follow Metropolitan Police

Met reveals crackdown on County Lines offending

News   •   Jun 02, 2020 12:31 BST

The last 10 weeks have been extremely challenging. But the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) focus on protecting the public and pursuing its number one priority of tackling violence has not wavered.

There is an undeniable link between drugs and violence, and that is why disrupting the supply through County Lines is crucial to tackling violence on the streets of London.

County Lines is complex. It is not a crime type, it is a drugs distribution model. To better understand those involved in its operation, officers reviewed data showing those involved in County Lines criminality collected by the National County Lines Coordination Centre (NCLCC). This data was analysed against the Met’s crime recording systems.

This showed that more than 1,300 individuals linked to County Lines have been charged with violent offences including more than 20 murders, hundreds of robberies, and possession of firearms.

Over the past year the Met has developed a much deeper understanding of the drivers of County Lines and how those orchestrating it operate. Operations across London have become increasingly successful and officers have disrupted some of the most systemic drug supply lines across the UK.

At the end of 2019 the Met received funding from the Home Office to tackle County Lines. A dedicated operation named Orochi was launched.

Many of the Met’s previous arrests made for County Lines offending across London were those running the drugs - often exploited and vulnerable. This showcases the sometimes fine line between suspect and victim.

So to more systematically dismantle County Lines from the centre, the strategic approach of Orochi was to target the lineholders. These are the individuals who are not hands on with the commodity and avoid police contact, but exploit others to run drugs across the UK.

Under Orochi officers have closed 87 County Lines and achieved 183 charges for drug trafficking. Of the 18 cases which have gone to court so far, all defendants have pleaded guilty and received a total of more than 50 years imprisonment.

Of those arrested 61% had previous convictions for violence and 64% had previous convictions for weapons. Only one lineholder was female. Only one phone being used to run a line was registered, albeit in a false name, and every other phone was an unregistered Pay-as-you-Go “burner” device.

When reviewing phone data there was a consistent pattern of large bulk text messages being sent by the lineholder, advertising the sale of drugs. Sometimes tens of thousands of messages were sent in short periods of time. The Met is now calling on industry and Government to work with officers to design out the ability of criminals to utilise telecommunications in this way.

On Friday, 29 May the Home Office announced an additional £5m of funding to enable the Met to continue its crucial work to tackle County Lines. This funding will be used to continue the successful work of Operation Orochi. Over the next 12 months officers will arrest, charge and convict a further 210 lineholders peddling drugs across the UK.

+ Through this challenging period officers across the wider organisation have remained committed to tackling violence, and as part of this, bringing those intent on peddling drugs to justice. Between 16 March and 20 May drug trafficking arrests are up 55% (1,431 to 2,232) and charges are up 143% (346 to 841).

Commissioner Cressida Dick said: “Over the last year we have made significant progress in our fight against violent drug dealers. The close partnerships formed with colleagues nationally have been crucial to this success, and I am grateful to them all for the part they have played – even throughout the last 10 challenging weeks. Across policing the commitment to driving down violence has never wavered.

“I am pleased at the additional funding announced by the Home Office which will go towards our work in this area. With this we will continue the success of Op Orochi and bring hundreds more individuals to justice.

“I do want to make clear that while we have made significant progress in identifying and arresting those running County Lines, this is not an issue we can solve alone. We need a whole host of partners in society to contribute. We need to reduce the demand for drugs and support those addicted to these lethal substances. Local agencies, charities, partners, schools, parents all need to help us protect the most vulnerable in our communities from being exploited by gangs into running drugs across the UK.

“Lastly, we need to design out the ability to run these lines. Over the last year we have developed a significant evidence base which shows how criminals use telecommunications to run their operations. We will work with whoever necessary to restrict the ability of these individuals to carry out this activity and destroy the business model of County Lines entirely.”