GMP is to get extra government cash for three years to create a squad to take down county lines drug gangs. Last year it was estimated 200 such networks were operating from the region, but that is now believed to have increased. In many children are groomed and exploited, being used as couriers.
The force has been robust in attempting to smash the lines which have been run to Cheshire, Cumbria, and even Scotland. A drugs line based in Salford, supplying crack cocaine to Warrington was taken out and members jailed recently, in a Cheshire Constabulary operation.
GMP is the fourth force to get Home Office funding specifically to tackle county lines. The decision follows data analysis, The government says: “Manchester is consistently one of the top five areas in England and Wales for county lines drug activity, which is in turn linked to the flow of guns and knives into the area often used to commit violent crime.”
Funding will create a dedicated team “to disrupt the highest harm and most profitable county lines.” They will conduct investigations to identify the controllers of the phone lines used to push drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine to vulnerable people. The new team will work alongside GMP’s existing Challenger program to prevent the exploitation and serious violence committed by county lines gangs and safeguard vulnerable children and adults.
The government has pledged to nationally eliminate more than 2,000 county lines over the next three years, backed by up to £145 million of investment. Police and Crime Minister, Kit Malthouse, who visited GMP this week said: “The controllers of drug networks around Manchester are ruthless criminals motivated by nothing but greed.”
He added: “They fuel violence and exploit children to do their dirty work, so they can stay undetected. But we see them, and with this dedicated team, Greater Manchester Police will do more than ever before to stop them and spare the local community from their poison.”
GMP now joins the Metropolitan Police Service, West Midlands Police and Merseyside Police which have all received extra funding to tackle county lines. Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable, Steve Watson QPM, said: “We are incredibly grateful to receive this additional funding, which will bolster our efforts to smash county lines activity and target those who prey on vulnerable children to commit their criminal deeds.
“These shadowy networks are often very complex, and the people involved are prepared to bring violence and serious crime to the streets of Greater Manchester, so establishing a dedicated team will allow us to focus more attention on them than ever before and get those firmly responsible.” in our crosshairs.
“Working alongside our partners within the existing Program Challenger partnership, we’ll not only be disrupting and dismantling networks but also ensuring that the vulnerable people affected will get the best possible support available.
“We know that county lines activity is high in our area, and I want to make it known to anyone who is committing these crimes in Greater Manchester that, quite simply, we will not tolerate it and our newly established team will do everything in their power to stop these criminals operating.”
The government’s 10-year Drug Strategy, From Harm to Hope, will support people through treatment and recovery, as well as ensuring a tougher response to criminal supply chains.
To bolster Greater Manchester’s efforts to tackle serious violence and homicide, the government recently confirmed that GMP will receive a further £8 million funding in 2022/23, to strengthen their successful violence reduction unit operation and ‘hotspot policing’ initiatives.
Hotspot policing involves police forces operating regular, intensive, high-visibility police foot patrols for short periods of time within specific areas where data analysis shows there is a risk of serious violence. GMP have been authorized this month to use stop and search powers in areas of the county following a string of fatal stabbings. Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has granted the force the controversial powers in designated areas of the city-region following repeated knife crime incidents in recent months
Violence reduction units bring together local partners in policing, education, health, and local government, to identify vulnerable children and adults at risk, helping to divert them away from a life of crime and violence.