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Problem solving forum looks at county lines

A GROUP of experts have been brought together to discuss new approaches to tackling county lines drug dealing and criminal exploitation in Dorset.

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) hosted its latest Problem Solving Forum, bringing together organisations involved in child protection and adult safeguarding, as well as housing and transport agencies, on Wednesday 14 November.

County lines – in which gangs from large cities use dedicated phone lines to supply drugs to smaller towns – has become a national issue affecting forces including Dorset Police.

The gangs involved often target vulnerable individuals, including young people suffering from poor mental health and addiction, sometimes threatening them with violence to coerce them into moving drugs across the country.

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, said: “County lines ruins lives. Not only does it bring the scourge of drug dealing into our own towns and villages, but the gangs involved are absolutely ruthless in the way they exploit young people and adults at risk of harm to do their dirty work.

“Dorset Police regularly patrols areas known for street dealing, and shares information with other forces across the country, but this is a problem that is larger than the police and requires a response from a wide range of organisations. This forum has brought these groups together to look at the problem from every angle and find sustainable and innovative solutions.”

The event was held in partnership with the Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards, Community Safety Partnerships and Adult Safeguarding Boards across Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset who have identified criminal exploitation and county lines as a priority across the county.

The forum, which took place as part of the Exploitation Conference at the Queen Elizabeth School in Wimborne Minster, heard from Supt Caroline Naughton from Dorset Police and Claire Dzuda from the Aster Housing Association, as well as DI Brittany Clarke from the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre.

A survivor of county lines exploitation from the St Giles Trust also spoke about their own experience of being used by drugs gangs.

Sarah Elliott, chair of the Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards, said: “We welcomed this opportunity to work with the PCC by joining these two events together. We wanted to encourage and support commitment by partners to tackle this abhorrent issue in our county.”

Participants took part in workshops to identify what each organisation involved could do differently and proposals will be taken forward through partnership working with relevant organisations.

The forums, which provide an opportunity to ensure policing remains responsive to emerging challenges as they arise, have previously looked at homelessness and fly tipping. 

Click here to read about what members of the public can do to look out for victims of county lines exploitation.

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