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Bonkers Blog February 2019

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12 February - Along County Lines

Detective Inspector Andy Furphy made the long trek from Lewisham last Tuesday evening to contribute to the discussion on safeguarding Bexley’s children. His specialism is County Lines, the practice whereby urban gangs supply drugs to rural and market towns using dedicated mobile phone numbers.

Council officers said that since the police Borough Command Unit reorganisation last November there had been no problems with “a lack of police presence”. The D.I. confirmed that his area of operation “was very well staffed”. The Lewisham Greenwich Bexley BCU is the only one in London to have operated “as it was designed without the model being changed”. On “safeguarding, knife crime, gangs and things like that we are doing quite well”.

Using a tracker - a term that was not explained but maybe software data based - in Lewisham “a huge number of young people [were discovered] that we had not recognised before”. Use of the tracker has been expanded into Greenwich and Bexley. 520 people are currently known to the tracker and all are involved with County Lines.

In Bexley the numbers are increasing but still only 23 and most in the north of the borough. It is not a gang problem. “I see no correlation with gangs. It is organised criminal networks.”

In the main they are run by 19 to 25 year olds.

580 teaching staff in Bexley schools (most but not all of them) have been trained in the signs to look for to combat County Lines. Fire arms officers and ex-offenders have been into schools with “hard hitting” messages and in return have “received self disclosures from young people”.

The amalgamation of the three boroughs has been an “amazing” benefit because it has “provided additional resources and a much broader understanding of what has been happening and what is cascading into Bexley. It is so much better than it was previously”.

Deputy Director Toni Ainge confirmed it. “The relationship with the police has improved one hundred fold.”

(Maybe Bexley Tories will not be so keen to say that were against the BCU amalgamation and Labour was in favour in future.)

D.I. Furphy concluded the discussion by saying that one of the ways to reduce the County Lines problem is to put adult “exploiters in prison for a long time. They are a very negative influence on young people. They are looked at as being rich with a decent car; we make efforts to put those people in prison ”.

Not long ago “we made 58 arrests in New Cross, not one of them was a child. 28 were arrested in Catford. We have done similar jobs in Southend and Gloucestershire with 17 and 26 arrests respectively.”

Criminal Behaviour Orders have successfully been used to restrict the movement of young people so that they cannot be exploited by County Lines. Older offenders involved with County Lines or found to be in possession of a knife are being disqualified from driving and their cars crushed.


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