December 2020 marked one year since the inception of the British Transport Police County Lines Taskforce.
The police team, dedicated to tackling gangs using the railway to transport drugs, has been carrying out operations at stations and train routes across England, Wales and Scotland and have seen 934 people arrested.
Funding from the Home Office allows the team to protect and safe guard children who are often used by County Lines gangs to move drugs and cash between import and export locations, often hundreds of miles apart.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The County Lines Taskforce are delivering impressive results. It is fantastic to see that in just over a year their important work has led to the arrests of 934 people suspected to be involved in the drugs trade.
“I am immensely grateful to all officers for the work they are doing to break up county lines drugs gangs, helping to prevent vulnerable young people from being drawn into a life of crime.”
A 13-year-old boy in Kent has been the youngest person arrested by the Taskforce. The boy was discovered last September carrying £1500 in cash. This directed the team to a flat in South East London where a further two people were arrested for modern and charged with slavery offences.
This is just one of 15 modern slavery charges secured by the Taskforce to date, as data over the one year period has showed County Lines gangs typically rely on children in their mid-teens, threatening them with acts of violence and preying on the vulnerable and often exploited children.
Since December 2019, officers have seized £308,000 from stops, often from children carrying cash ranging from £1000 to £5000. 168 dangerous weapons and 471 drug seizes have also been removed from the railway.
Operations are planned only a few days in advance, using the most up to date information and supported by local police forces.
Taskforce lead Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams said: “One year on we have a very strong picture of how County Lines gangs are using the railway. We know where they are operating and the young age groups they target.
“This year, we’ve used the Home Office funding to bring in experts in child exploitation from notable charities committed to tackling County Lines, and we have expanded the team to make sure we can reach across England, Wales and Scotland, putting pressure on gangs wherever they operate.
“We are also in step with the wider railway industry, training their frontline staff to identify the signs of County Lines and child exploitation. They are our eyes and ears and we use their reports to identify where we should target next.
“Our Taskforce plays a vital role in understanding this issue.
“While local forces target County Lines gangs in their jurisdictions, we work alongside them by targeting the stations and trains these gangs use to move drugs and cash throughout the nation. We will continue this work into 2021.”