01 November, 2019
County Lines describes gangs or organised criminals who export drugs into one or more UK importing areas.
They use dedicated mobile phone lines or 'deal lines' and use children or vulnerable adults, to move / store the drugs. They use coercion, intimidation, violence, sexual violence and weapons.
Cuckooing is the practice whereby these criminals take over a vulnerable person's home and use it as a hub for drug dealing and criminality. Cuckooing and County Lines are difficult for statutory agencies to address because activities take place under the radar and criminals adapt their approach in response to police operations.
Recently there has been an increase in the number of Cuckooing cases referred to us from our Housing Association clients.
We believe this is because our clients provide social housing to the most vulnerable in society, making their tenants a target for criminals. There will often be dozens of people visiting the target address, causing anti-social behaviour (ASB), dealing and using drugs.
Without knowing the identities of those responsible, it is not possible for Housing Associations to seek injunctions, nor would it be cost effective to do so due to the number of visitors attending. Whilst possession proceedings are another option, these are usually time consuming.
A Premises Closure Order (PCO) is a swift and cost-effective remedy, enabling the Police or Local Authority to close the Cuckooed property making it a criminal offence for any unauthorised persons to enter.
This reassures the public and stops ASB immediately. The difficulty is that a PCO is not a legal remedy that is available to a Housing Association. However, we have assisted Housing Associations to develop links with partner agencies resulting in the closure of Cuckooed properties in Merseyside and Northamptonshire.
In these cases, our clients played a key role in the investigatory process and information was shared between partner agencies once links were developed. We are aware of gangs from Manchester and Yorkshire moving into the Humberside and Lincolnshire regions and taking control of the local drug supply chain.
To help combat this, we have teamed up with the Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Organised Crime Unit to deliver a series of seminars throughout the North of England and in particular along the M62 corridor. There will be a focus on raising awareness and gathering intelligence during these seminars, ensuring that Housing Associations are embedded in the tasking process where a county line is known to run through one of their neighbourhoods.
Whilst seeking to achieve innovative, local solutions, this approach will also contribute towards larger, national operations. Colleagues from the Police and Social Care have really embraced this partnership approach.
The first of these seminars took place at Scunthorpe United Football Club on Wednesday 16th October 2019, where we highlighted current issues and promoted positive outcomes.