Officers in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), in partnership with colleagues in forces across the UK, have secured more than 1,000 charges against suspects linked to county lines.
Between 1 November 2019 and 31 January 2021 a total of 587 county line lineholders and their associates have been charged with 1,135 offences including conspiracy to supply, possession with intent to supply and supply of Class A drugs.
A total of 20 people have also been charged with 37 offences under modern day slavery legislation and 154 vulnerable people have been rescued.
So far this activity has permanently closed 324 lines which originated in the capital and ran in to county force areas. Significant work remains ongoing to ensure these lines do not re-emerge under a different guise or brand.
County lines is a familiar term to many, but to others it is still an entirely unknown concept. It is not a crime type but a drugs distribution model and involves criminals setting up a phone line through which they sell Class A drugs – mainly crack cocaine and heroin.
Those in charge of the phone lines (the lineholders) often recruit children and vulnerable adults into trafficking the drugs all over the country to avoid detection. These individuals are often threatened with violence and are unable to escape.
Over the past 18 months, the MPS has developed a deeper understanding of the drivers of county lines and how those running lines operate. It is now tackled not only by the MPS’ dedicated county lines operation named Orochi, but by teams across all of the London boroughs.
The majority of the 1,135 charges since November 2019 have been secured through joint investigations with 20 other forces across the UK, all the way from Scotland to Devon and Cornwall. Through Operation Orochi work alone, 92 lineholders have been sentenced to 401 years’ imprisonment, and 13 associates have been sentenced to a total of 37 years’ imprisonments. Many cases are still progressing through the courts.
Live investigations remain ongoing with many of these forces, focused on dismantling remaining county lines.
Commissioner Cressida Dick said: “The last year has been one of the most unique and challenging we have ever faced. But in no way has this lessened our determination to disrupt and prevent violent crime in London.
“It is crucial we continue to recognise and act on the undeniable link between drugs and violence. The majority of the public may see county lines as nothing more than drug dealing, but it is so much more. It causes real and visible harm to generations of young people, and the wider impact on our communities should not be underestimated. That’s why disrupting the supply of drugs through all routes continues to form a central part of our work to tackle violence on the streets of London.
“Alongside our work to tackle county lines and lower level supply, we remain focused on disrupting those higher up the chain and responsible for the widespread distribution of substances across the UK. Just last week, working with our colleagues in the National Crime Agency, we disrupted the importation of more than two tonnes of cocaine into the United Kingdom.
“This impressive work is set to continue and intensify in the coming weeks and months, and I look forward to seeing the significant impact it achieves.”