Teen county lines drug dealers posed as key workers to evade police
Teenage county lines drug dealers posed as key workers during lockdown to evade police, according to a new City Hall report.
Gang leaders encouraged them to alter dealing hours and locations to blend in or justify breaking restrictions if stopped.
NHS staff, social workers, teachers and postal workers were among those allowed to carry out their vital jobs by the government.
A programme helping youngsters exit the £1billion-a-year county lines trade has identified 3,290 being exploited to move drugs from London to 41 smaller towns and cities.
The average age is 15 to 17, with the youngest just ten and oldest 26. Half were out of education or employment when referred.
Brighton, Cambridge, Southampton, Portsmouth and Basingstoke are the top five areas targeted by London lines.
Gangs use knives and firearms to protect trade leading to spikes in youth violence.
Mayor Sadiq Khan said 60 per cent of those who engaged with the £3million Rescue and Response scheme either reduced supplying or left gangs.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
He announced a further £750,000 investment from City Hall in 2020/21 to protect those at increased risk during the Covid pandemic.
Mr Khan said a third of young Londoners have either lost jobs or been furloughed, increasing the chances of them being exploited.
Examples include teenagers replying to a job advert on Snapchat “to make lots of money” and then threatened by gangs with serious violence for not complying.
Rescue and Response’s annual report found during lockdown demand for drugs was “very high”.
Dealers adapted by supplying in bulk, altered dealing hours and locations to blend in with restrictions and posed as key workers in order to justify breaching rules
Cars, bikes and taxis were increasingly used to avoid detection on public transport.
City Hall’s partner agencies St Giles, Abianda and Safer London offer one-to-one support to help build healthy family relationships, safeguard young men and women and assist them secure safe accommodation.
Mr Khan said: “It’s vital we act now to protect children and young Londoners who we know are at increased risk of exploitation by county lines during the pandemic.
“City Hall’s rescue and response programme is making a difference – supporting hundreds of vulnerable young people to leave county lines and turn their lives around.
“But we know we’re only scratching the surface of a major national issue that has evolved and is still driving violence in London and across the country.”