Rise in number of arrests sparks calls for more funding to tackle county lines drug dealing in North Yorkshire

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A commissioner responsible for policing across one of Britain’s most rural areas has urged the government to redirect some of its funding to tackle county lines drug dealing gangs to help villages and small towns being targeted by the criminals.

North Yorkshire’s police, fire and crime panel heard North Yorkshire Police made 222 arrests involving 118 individuals connected to county lines drug supply last year, up from 191 arrests in 2018.

There are now 11 drug supply lines from urban areas such as Cleveland, West Yorkshire, Liverpool and Manchester affecting North Yorkshire, of which five affect Harrogate, Scarborough and Whitby five, four affect York and one is targeting Skipton. These are coming from West Yorkshire, Cleveland.

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Some 655 individuals have been identified as connected to county lines offending across the area, including those being exploited by gangs.

Calls for more funding to tackle county lines drug dealing.Calls for more funding to tackle county lines drug dealing.
Calls for more funding to tackle county lines drug dealing.

Mrs Mulligan said she was “hugely reassured” about the force’s response to county lines. She said: “If you look at the number of people who have been cuckooed in North Yorkshire, it is a lot higher than in other areas. That’s because the force has been very proactive around that area.”

However, the commissioner said when the force disrupted county lines activities run by for example a Merseyside gang, the government recorded it as Merseyside Police activity.

She said: “We want to try and get rid of some of these anomalies in the way the crime is being recorded because that is having an impact on the government’s analysis of what is going on in North Yorkshire and having an impact on funding.”

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The meeting heard while the force was encouraging residents to report suspicions of drug dealing and county lines activities, residents, particularly in rural areas, had “very real fears” and “concrete examples of reprisals”.

Mrs Mulligan said was concerned county lines activities was spreading to rural locations and members were told the Home Office was now using the term Blurred Lines to highlight the spread of drug dealing across areas.

Chief constable Lisa Winward said while it was important for the public to see the police taking action after receiving tip-offs about county lines, sometimes it was important for the force to build intelligence to establish the gravity of the offences being committed.

She said: “Sometimes the best way to tackle a county line in a rural area will be to tackle the people at the start of the chain, rather than us taking minor enforcement activity.”