Kent & Medway Gangs Strategy and County Lines
- Meeting of Crime and Disorder (Overview and Scrutiny) Committee, Wednesday 13 February 2019 7.00 pm (Item 25.)
To receive a presentation from the Community Safety Manager (CSM) and Kent Police.
Members received a joint Kent Police /Dartford Council presentation from the Community Safety Manager (CSM) entitled - Kent and Medway Gangs Strategy and County Lines. The PowerPoint material covered the following principal areas:
· National Picture
· Signs, Risks and Vulnerabilities
· Kent and Medway Strategy
· How Dartford is Responding
Spread of City Gangs and County Lines
Members were given details of how so called ‘county lines’ operations had spread out North, South, East and West from the Metropolis into the Home Counties. The overall number of London Gangs was believed to have reduced from 230 down to 180 with an overall gang membership of some 3,000 individuals. ‘County lines’ activity appeared to operate across most of Kent. Dartford was not a ‘hotspot’ but had its issues.
Definition of a Gang
Members were advised that the Home Office (HO) defined a group of people involved in violence as a gang if they consisted of 3 or more people and had one or more characteristics that enabled its members to be identified by others.
Kent Police refined the HO gang definition further, by recognising a distinction between:
· Organised criminal gangs associated with level 2 criminality [Kent, Surrey and Sussex];
· Gangs maintaining ‘drug lines’ across the county of Kent;
· Those who have a more nebulous link to gangs and a ‘youth culture’ based on a ‘tag line’ or postcode affiliation.
The activities of the second and third categories listed above, in particular, exhibited a potent form of Child Criminal Exploitation.
Gangs could be broken down into the following tiered structure:
· Highest Tier – the ‘Elder’ or ‘Boss’ who often owned their own business for laundering drugs and money with average daily turnover of £3K upwards;
· Middle Tier – ‘Shotters’ or ‘Generals’ who were the main enforcers in a gang, researched new areas for drug demand, organised recruitment, supervised the lower tier and crossed ‘county lines’ during their activities;
· Lower Tier- ‘Wrappers’ were back room staff who prepared Class A drugs for sale. ‘Youngers’ (including kids) carried knives and committed street robberies. The most vulnerable ‘Youngers’ usually looked after the younger children on a ‘gang family’ basis. New recruits entered the gang family at this level.
Safeguarding – National Issue
· The age of children now dealing on behalf of gangs was getting progressively younger;
· As a consequence education around gangs was being targeted at a younger audience and age-group;
· The backgrounds of those being recruited to gangs showed that youths, early school-age teenagers and even younger children were all easy targets. Children from single parent families or with a parent who was a drug user were also particularly susceptible to recruitment, and attracted by the gang as a role model;
· Younger children [pre-Secondary school age] were being increasingly recruited by gangs because they were harder for the authorities to identify and re-educate.
Members were shown two short hard-hitting video excerpts, featuring real gang members being interviewed [with their features hidden] talking about the reality of their existence as gang members. The difficulties [in terms of detection] that the recruitment of increasingly younger gang members posed for the local and national authorities was highlighted by one interviewee.
County Line drug dealing is the practice of metropolitan crime gangs supplying drugs outside London to dealers in the Home Counties. Cuckooing is the practice whereby dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for drug dealing. Such cuckooed addresses represent a significant risk to the individuals being cuckooed and the wider community. Signs of this practice include:
· Individuals taking over a vulnerable person’s address;
· Vulnerable people being threatened or coerced into co-operating;
· Frequent high numbers of visitors to the address;
· Signs of drug misuse at the address including deal bags and weighing scales;
· Individuals displaying large amounts of cash and having multiple mobile phones.
People in the social housing market were the most vulnerable to this gang activity and the Council’s Housing Department liaised closely with the Community Safety Unit and Kent Police to prevent such Cuckooing operations in the Borough.
Kent and Medway Gangs Strategy 2018-2021 -Approach to Ending the Criminal Exploitation of Vulnerable Children and Adults by Gangs
· To protect and prevent young people from becoming involved with gangs, to tackle gang-related harm and youth violence, to pursue effective enforcement action to deal with those embroiled in gang activities;
· Approached by working together collaboratively across Kent & Medway local agency partnerships, to achieve the key objectives that have been identified as central to driving this vision.
Action Plan – District Involvement
· To undertake multi-agency ‘problem profiling’ of gangs and gang nominal and associates operating in Kent & Medway;
· To drawing on the learning experiences of the Margate Taskforce geo-mapping and peer group analysis approach to obtain a more comprehensive and sophisticated understanding of where and how gangs operated in the County in order to better target resources and channel collective energies to tackle this issue for both vulnerable children and adults;
· To provide individuals at risk of gang involvement and their families with focussed support and wrap-around services to dissuade them from entering into gangs and criminal groups;
· To Work across the tiers of local government to use all available powers to create and manage public spaces and discourage gang congregation.
Members were advised that Dartford was not a ‘trail-blazer’ in terms of County Line activity in Kent. Thanet had been the first major location for such activity in the county with lessons to be learnt from that local authority’s experience, and how it had addressed the issue with early help from, and liaison with, London Boroughs and the Kent and Metropolitan Police Forces.
In addition to drawing on KCC’s Safeguarding policy, Dartford worked closely with Kent Police and held a seat on KCC’s Serious Youth Crime Reduction Group, through Councillor Ann Allen as a Kent Member and Dartford Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Community Development.
Dartford contribution to Objectives of Kent & Medway Plan
· To create and manage public spaces to discourage gang congregation and associated anti-social behaviour (ASB) through: Dartford’s CCTV operation; DTAC (Dartford Town Against Crime) network managed through the CSU to provide local retailers and traders with Intel and support; Town Centre Design by the Council benefited from key Intel input from the CSU;
· To create a shared understanding of gangs across the local Partnership (D&G CSP) and develop a common language and approach to that work through: expert CCTV operator training funded by the Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC); developing the Dartford Serious Youth Violence Group; continued staff training in the field.
· Drive towards effective enforcement and offender management to deal with individuals involved in gangs who refuse to reform including: enforcement of the Night-Time economy, use of the Housing Act, Community Protection procedures; and Policing Operations and Initiatives.
· Strengthen early intervention and prevention work to stop young people becoming involved with gangs early on, and dissuade those on the cusp of becoming drawn into gang activity – primarily through improvements in the sharing of information including: Police input into schools, working with the St. Giles Trust and NatWest as a ‘community banker’, Head Teacher education, Youth Hubs, Kent Serious Youth Violence Crime scheme and Kent Police Dartford Youth Engagement Officer.
· Develop support pathways to help young people out of gangs and violent behaviour including: the Challenge scheme – intensive and costly but the CSO was producing good early results; attendance at Adolescent Risk Management Panel (ARM) meetings and Integrated Offender Management (IOM) meetings; through the Vulnerability Forum, a multi-agency operation co-ordinated via the Kent Police CSU Inspector, with the CSO attending London Borough meetings; Cross-Border Liaison.
In response to subsequent individual questions from Members the CSM confirmed the following points:
· The Vulnerability Forum had no matrix of activity in Dartford, or profile of gang members. However, work was being undertaken by reformed gang members to provide current offenders with positive male role models;
· Cuckooing was not prevalent in Dartford;
· The CSO was liaising with London authorities over their gang profiles and the nature of their County Line operations including any implications for Dartford.
The Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Community Development advised Members that the Local Children’s Partnership Board was undertaking excellent work in Dartford. Dartford’s Youth Council was also undertaking a vital and effective role in getting young people to talk to each other and she paid particular praise to the work being undertaken by the CSU and Kent Police to educate young people to the dangers of gang activity and involvement.
The Chairman and Members thanked the CSM for an excellent presentation and his positive responses to their questions, and noted the excellent work being undertaken by the CSO.