Suffolk leaders agree £1.1m to tackle county lines drug operations
PUBLISHED: 18:14 25 September 2020 | UPDATED: 18:14 25 September 2020
More than £1.1million is being committed to a fresh three-year campaign in tackling county lines drug operations – with specialist hubs set for Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds.
The Suffolk Public Sector Leaders gathering of council leaders and chief executives on Friday announced a new three year scheme starting in April next year would continue the work carried out over the last two years.
That programme featured £500,000 in retained business rates being pumped into tackling the problem, with the refreshed programme securing £1.1m once again from business rates.
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It will see specialist hubs established in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds, and crucially target criminal exploitation and some of the underlying reasons why youngsters get caught up in county lines.
Councillor Paul West, cabinet member for Ipswich, communities and waste at Suffolk County Council said: “While we have made good progress in the last couple of years, we cannot take our focus away from keeping the pressure on – brand new cohorts of young people are coming through as time moves on.”
He added: “The issue of gangs and county lines is very much part of the wider term criminal exploitation and the wider term perhaps better reflects the wider implications of how and why young people and vulnerable adults get involved in gangs, county lines, trafficking and grooming, and on many occasions switch from being the victims of crimes to perpetrators of crime.”
The new hubs will act as bases for outreach work, which will include targeted moves to stop vulnerable youngsters at a high risk of becoming involved, as well as work with those in the hardest to reach areas and on education programmes.
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It is hoped that having officers rooted in those communities the signs of criminal exploitation can be spotted earlier and people steered away from becoming involved.
Existing work to date has seen scores of arrests made and more than 23,000 frontline professionals such as teachers and health workers trained to spot the signs of gang involvement.
While the focus in the hubs will be in the Ipswich and Bury communities initially, Mr West confirmed that the Ipswich hub would also be working in East Suffolk communities such as Kesgrave, Felixstowe and Woodbridge.
Suffolk Constabulary chief constable, Steve Jupp, said: “While it is very much a need to focus on enforcement and preventing young people getting into what will be potentially a life of crime, I think the economic situation facing us will actually exacerbate this massively.
MORE: Suffolk leaders pledge £500,000 in fight against county lines
“We need to continue to provide confidence to our communities, and work to dispel the fear of crime.”
County lines are drug supply operations which can be run from hundreds of miles away through mobile phone links, and refers to the supply of substances across county borders.
Babergh District Council leader John Ward added: “It’s so destructive among so many parts of our communities and we have really got to get on top of this.
“We have got the opportunity now with the momentum built up and this money.”
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