Brent leads effort to tackle County Lines drug trade in London, as Mayor reveals the scale of the problem

20 September 2019

Woman stands on station platform as train approaches (credit: madeleine ragsdale)

Brent Council is spearheading a coalition of councils to support vulnerable children at risk of exploitation by criminal County Lines drug networks, as latest figures reveal 4,000 have been identified as at risk.

County Lines is where criminal gangs groom children to transport drugs outside of the city and across the country on their behalf. Children as young as 11 are being targeted, with criminals taking advantage of vulnerabilities, such as family breakdown, poverty or learning difficulties. They offer youngsters money and promises of a better lifestyle. Once involved, experience shows it takes time to engage with victims suffering this kind of exploitation, due to the pressures they face and fear of reprisal.

Brent Council has a central role in coordinating London's Rescue and Response programme across the 32 boroughs. In 2018, the Mayor of London invested £3 million in the three-year project to work to better understand, target and respond to County Lines. Across the capital 568 under-25s have been referred in its first year. Of these, 37 lived in Brent.

The Rescue and Response programme brings together specialists St Giles Trust, Abianda, and Safer London to provide young men and women with ongoing support through dedicated caseworkers. By engaging with youngsters as early as possible, with frank one-on-one conversations, tailored support, and an understanding of their specific risks, the programme is able to help victims escape and move on from exploitation.

Cllr Tom Miller, Lead Member for Community Safety & Engagement at Brent Council, said: "Our children are being preyed on and trapped by networks of criminals through County Lines. With 4,000 young people at risk, the Mayor's recent announcement highlights the huge challenge we are facing and the scale of response that's needed.

"Despite the great work of the Rescue and Response programme, our delivery partners are at capacity and have referrals on a waiting list. So I urge the government to prioritise investment in projects that support youngsters to escape exploitation."

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: ""County Lines operate across the country, exploiting vulnerable young people and driving gang-related violence. Now, for the first time, through the Rescue and Response programme funded by City Hall, we are beginning to see the devastating scale of the impact with thousands of young people involved in lines reaching all corners of the country. We are supporting young people where we can, but we know we're only scratching the surface of a major national issue that is driving violence in London and across the country."

If you are concerned about your child, or someone you know, and you live in Brent, please get in touch with the Brent Family Front Door on 020 8937 4300 (press option 1).