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Met Police tackles County Line exploitation with TfL and taxi drivers’ help

Image credit: Met Police

In a sweeping crackdown on county line drug dealing, Metropolitan Police officers have arrested nearly 300 individuals and confiscated 27 kilograms of suspected narcotics. The operation, part of a national ‘County Lines Intensification Week’ from 4-10 March, aimed to dismantle the drug supply chains extending from cities into smaller towns and rural locales, often exploiting vulnerable youths.

The Metropolitan Police’s strategy involves a data-driven pursuit of the so-called ‘line holders’, the orchestrators behind the drug distribution networks. This approach has facilitated interventions to protect children entangled in these operations, shielding them from the significant risks associated with drug trafficking.

In an innovative move to combat the exploitation of young individuals through county lines, the Met Police joined forces with Transport for London (TfL), taxi, and private hire firms. The initiative seeks to equip licensed drivers with the knowledge to identify and report instances of child exploitation linked to drug distribution. Recognising the role of taxis and private hire vehicles in the involuntary transport of youths for these illegal activities, the police have issued guidance to drivers on how to spot potential exploitation and the appropriate channels for reporting their concerns.

This collaboration highlights the critical role of community vigilance and the importance of reporting suspicious activities to the authorities. The operation’s impact is notable, with 210 vulnerable individuals safeguarded, 95 county lines dismantled, and an array of drugs, weapons, and illicit assets seized.

Detective Superintended Kirsty Mead, who leads the Met’s response to county lines, said: “County lines is much more than drug dealing. It causes real, visible misery to young people and vulnerable adults, and completely destroys communities.

“Officers and partners – such as Catch22, Rescue and Response, The Children’s Society, Transport for London, local authorities, and the transport and health sectors – pulled together to achieve these results and worked hard to safeguard the most vulnerable in our society while also removing harmful offenders from our streets.

“The Met is committed to tackling county lines and our efforts remain ongoing day in, day out, and the week of intensification is only an extension of that work. However, we cannot do this alone. By working closely with parents, schools, local authorities, the Government, the transport and the health sectors, we can bring everyone together and dismantle this devastating distribution model, making London safer for everyone.”

James Simmonds-Read, Prevention National Programme Manager at The Children’s Society, said: “We have been working closely with the Metropolitan Police Service to keep children safe during just this week of action, and throughout the year.

“This week’s focus shines a spotlight on child exploitation and addresses the myth that these children aren't victims or don't need our help. They are victims of child exploitation and we must make sure this is recognised and they get the right support.

“Our #LookCloser campaign makes clear child abuse doesn't care what a child’s background is or what their postcode is. Every child could be at risk. It's all our responsibility – from police, social workers, taxi and private hire drivers, shop workers, hotel staff, and people using trains and buses — to look out for children being exploited and take action. We're urging everyone to join us in this fight, to make sure no child slips through the net.”


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