The new chief constable of North Wales Police, Carl Foulkes, has said that North Wales is suffering from crimes relating to ‘county lines drugs gangs’ and that he wants to make North Wales “the safest place in the UK”.
County lines is the term used for organised drug dealing networks, usually controlled by a person in a big city location, who distributes drugs across another county using ‘drug runners‘.
The National Crime Agency estimates half the communities targeted by County Lines are small coastal towns. With its proximity to Liverpool and Manchester, North Wales has found itself a prime target.
Big city drugs gangs have found their traditional markets have become saturated with too much competition between gangs and it’s very dangerous, by expanding their business into the provinces – sending young people there to act as drug runners – they not only stand to make huge profits but have less resistance from local dealers and a lower risk of being known by police.
Children as young as 13 are being lured by the promise of “easy money” and are groomed and trafficked out of the major cities to the provinces or “counties”. Once in place, they sell drugs via dedicated mobile phone numbers or “lines”.
County Lines drug dealers will often base themselves in the homes of vulnerable people, a term known as ‘cuckooing’ but failing this they will just sleep rough.
DC Vicky Knight, of North Wales Police explained: “The drug runners arriving in small towns give customers an untraceable mobile phone number.
“The key is this mobile number which is held back in the city by an anonymous dealer. They have no obvious contact with the drugs but have total control over what is being sold and when.”
Earlier this year Kyle Graham, 18, from Runcorn in Cheshire, had been dealing drugs in Bangor for just five days when he was arrested.
A court heard he owed £200 in a drug debt and was ordered to go to Bangor where for 13 hours a day he would sell drugs from a lane where his supplies were constantly replenished.
Each day he would sell £1,000 worth of Class A drugs – primarily heroin and crack cocaine – but his cut amounted to just £50. Pleading guilty, Graham was sentenced to three years in prison.
Chief Constable Foulkes said: “We do suffer from organised crime and we are seeing evermore a better understanding of the impact of organised crime and the link to county lines specifically, where we have young people, vulnerable people who can’t support themselves that are being targeted and abused by organised crime gangs.
“I want to make us more preventative. I think policing has become quite reactive in its approach, and I want to start solving the problems that are affecting our communities, to build a long term legacy for the future.”
County lines drug dealers have been sleeping rough in Bangor