HMICFRS report on police responses to county lines – response from St Giles

St Giles is one of the lead organisations working at the frontline across the UK to address the ongoing issue of children and adolescents being exploited through criminal drugs gangs to transport and deal drugs.  We welcome today’s report which shines a light on this highly challenging issue.

Evan Jones, Head of Child Criminal Exploitation at St Giles, said:

“Young people involved in county lines are extremely vulnerable and are used and abused by the gangs to carry out all the risky work in the process of county lines dealing.  They are coerced into carrying out criminal offences – sometimes serious ones – with often devastating consequences for them and those around them.  We welcome many of the report’s findings and recommendations, especially those around the identification of vulnerability and the essential need for care and support to be in place when a young person is released from policy custody.”

He continued:

“We believe there has been a great deal of progress made by police and other professionals addressing county lines.  However, this is an evolving  issue with new factors constantly emerging and the challenge for all of us to keep on top of these. Our staff at the frontline are ideally placed to do this through insights from their own personal backgrounds and their current work helping the young people involved.”

Examples of county lines victims amongst St Giles’ caseload include a young man with hidden disabilities who was groomed and recruited online to work for a county line.  Obsessed with gaming, the young man wanted £100 to buy an IT part to develop his own game. The false promise of quick cash trapped him into county lines activity. He ended up seriously assaulted and in police custody for dealing.  He was then referred to our caseworker who gave him the care and support he needed to safely exit county lines. 

St Giles has been working with children and young people involved in county lines through long-established work to help young people exit gangs and serious violence.  Our approach throughout this work is to use professionally trained staff who have direct first-hand experience of county lines and similar issues, using a mix of their professional skills and personal insights.  Through Early Intervention Youth Funding, our caseworkers are also working in police custody suites to help young people at point of arrest and prevent them returning to the situation which led to their arrest once they are released.

Through Home Office funding we established our first dedicated service addressing county lines exploitation through a pilot project in Kent helping young victims in the county. The project has continued to be supported through Kent PCC. 

St Giles also runs similar specialist county lines projects in London through the MOPAC-funded multi-agency Rescue and Response project helping young people from the capital involved in county lines activity, and in south Wales through a project funded by BBC Children in Need.  We also carry out prevention work across the UK with children and adolescents at risk and work with police forces and other professionals working with young people, offering them training so they are better equipped to address issues in their local areas.