In February 2007 John Pitts (Vauxhall Professor of Socio-legal Studies, University of Bedfordshire) wrote a paper entitled “Reluctant Gangsters: Youth Gangs in Waltham Forest”. This is an informative work on London’s gang culture and one of the first studies to identify how London gangs operated. The study focused on the London Borough of Waltham Forest, but its learning can be applied to any London borough or socially deprived area, it detailed for the first time the challenges faced by young people in the deprived housing estates in London and how this factors into the ‘gang culture’.
John Pitts was born and brought up in Walthamstow. He has worked as a printer, a cab driver a freelance journalist, a ‘special needs’ teacher, a street and club-based youth worker, a residential social worker, a youth justice development officer, a group worker in a Young Offender Institution, a trainer of workers in youth justice, a consultant to workers in youth justice and youth social work, legal professionals and the police in the UK, mainland Europe, Trinidad and Tobago, the Russian Federation and China.
The world of gang strucures and how they operate is an ever-changing model. Our understanding of the subject is always behind the curve and it is only in 2018 that there is a slowly growing recognition that London gangs have been involved in human trafficking for many years. This is both the grooming of vulnerable young girls for sexual exploitation but also in the recruitment and exploitation of young people for criminal activities such as carrying guns and other weapons on behalf of ‘elders’ or committing robbery, acts of violence and drug trafficking. The drug trafficking by London gangs has been given its own name by practitioners and professionals. They are calling it “County Lines”
It is often assumed that the problem of gangs and group violence is limited to London and the UK’s other major cities. This assumption is a dangerous one, not least given the long- standing phenomenon of “going country” or “County Lines” as it has come to be known.
County lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas within the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other forms of “deal line”. They are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store the drugs and money and they will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence), and weapons.
While the term 'County Lines' and some of the methodologies may appear to be new to many practitioners, it has been with us since the late 80's. During this time Bernie Gravett was combatting the drugs supply market in Notting Hill in London. This period saw the arrival of the 'Yardies' organised crime groups from Jamaica. They were operating the same methodologies as the London post code gangs use now. This is the use and exploitation of vulnerable victims in order to support and grow their business. Their business being drug dealing.
What was a 'Crack House' in the 90's is now called a 'Trap House'. Both targeted vulnerable addicted individuals to enable supply to be managed from their premises. This is now referred to a 'Cuckooing'. However, as explained this is not new.
The other thing that has also failed to change is that front line services and the Courts continue to fail to identify and recognise victims of child criminal exploitation in this arena.
Specialist Policing Consultancy are experts in this area.
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