Drink and Drugs News DDN February 2019 | Page 4

News HUGE INCREASE IN ‘COUNTY LINES’ ACTIVITY, SAYS NCA ‘COUNTY LINES’ DRUG DEALING NETWORKS ARE CONTINUING TO EXPAND with increasing exploitation of children and vulnerable adults, says a report from the National Crime Agency (NCA). The county lines model involves gangs and criminal networks moving drugs – primarily heroin and crack – into new supply areas such as smaller towns and rural areas, and using dedicated mobile phone lines to take orders. There are now around 2,000 operative mobile lines compared to 720 in 2017-18, says NCA’s latest County lines drug supply, vulnerability and harm document, with the gangs remaining ‘highly adaptable in their operating methods and practices’. Gangs will offer free drugs in exchange for contact details of potential customers to expand their supply base, says the report, using ‘mass marketing text messages’ to advertise their product. Children aged 15- 17 – both male and female – make up the bulk of vulnerable people involved, recruited via grooming techniques ‘similar to what has been seen in child sexual exploitation and abuse’. Rather than seeing themselves as victims, the young people are often ‘flattered by the attention and gifts they receive’, making them less likely to engage with the police. However, the exploitation methods used include sexual abuse, modern slavery, and the ‘threat of violence and injury to ensure compliance’. County lines gangs will also ‘capitalise on drug users who allow the use of their property, as well as those who introduce new customers to suppliers in exchange for drugs’, says the document. ‘These drug users may believe the arrangement to be mutually beneficial, but in many cases will be building up a debt to the offending network, which they are expected to pay back through engagement in county lines offending.’ Government, law enforcement, charities and other organisations need to work together to ‘safeguard the vulnerable’, the report stresses, with county lines activity driving a two-thirds increase in the number of minors referred as potential victims of modern slavery between 2016 and 2017 (DDN, April 2018, page 4). One week of coordinated police activity between 21 and 27 January this year saw 600 arrests, says NCA, along with more than 400 vulnerable adults and 600 children ‘engaged for safeguarding purposes’ and seizures of more than 140 weapons including guns, machetes and Nikki HollaNd swords. ‘We know that criminal networks use high levels of violence, exploitation and abuse to ensure compliance from the vulnerable people they employ to do the day- to-day drug supply activity,’ said NCA’s director of investigations, Nikki Holland. ‘Every organised crime group trafficking drugs is a business which relies on cash flow. County lines is no different. What we will continue to do with our law enforcement partners is disrupt their activity and take away their assets. We also need to ensure that those exploited are safeguarded and understand the consequences of their involvement. This is not something law enforcement can tackle alone – the need to work together to disrupt this activity and safeguard vulnerable victims must be the priority for everyone.’ Report at www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk NO CHARGE UPDATED GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE on implementing health charging regulations for overseas visitors has clarified the position on drug and alcohol services. These can be considered the equivalent of primary medical services, says the revised DHSC document, which means that they are exempt from any charges to foreign nationals – previous versions had been unclear on which services were considered equivalent. Inpatient care, however – which includes residential rehab – is not considered a primary medical service and will therefore not be available without charge. ‘The change will enable drug and alcohol services to provide treatment to anyone who needs it, irrespective of who they are and where they come from,’ said Blenheim CEO John Jolly. Guidance on implementing the overseas visitor charging regulations at www.gov.uk 4 | drinkanddrugsnews | February 2019 ‘This is not something law enforcement can tackle alone...’ ‘drug and alcohol services can continue to provide treatment to anyone who needs it, irrespective of who they are and where they come from.’ EU WINE LAKE EU HOUSEHOLDS spent more than EUR 350bn on alcohol in 2017, equivalent to just under 1 per cent of EU GDP. ‘It should be noted that this does not include alcoholic beverages paid for in restaurants and hotels,’ says the EU statistics office, Eurostat. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania spent the most on alcohol, while Spain spent the least. Figures at ec.europa.eu DAMNING FIGURES THERE WERE ALMOST 600 DEATHS of homeless people in England and Wales in 2017, according to ONS figures, an increase of almost a quarter over five years. Men accounted for 84 per cent of the deaths, with more than 30 per cent the result of drug poisoning, primarily opiates – a 51 per cent increase over the same period. Separate research by Crisis estimates that there are 12,300 people sleeping rough on the street and almost 12,000 sleeping in tents, cars or on public transport. The numbers are more than double official figures, which are based on local authority estimates or street counts. Deaths of homeless people in England and Wales: 2013 to 2017 at www.ons.gov.uk ; Rough sleeping figures at www.crisis.org.uk COMMISSION CALL THE GAMBLING COMMISSION is consulting on a new three-year strategy to reduce gambling harms. The aim is to ‘focus on the range of harms gambling can inflict, particularly those harms that affect those other than the gambler’ – such as health, crime and household debt. Have your say at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/J5QR6MT STALLED STATE THE NUMBER OF COUNTRIES PROVIDING HARM REDUCTION initiatives has stalled in the last two years, according to Harm Reduction International’s (HRI) latest Global state of harm reduction report. Despite injecting drug use being present in almost 180 countries, the number providing needle and syringe programmes has fallen from 90 in 2016 to 86. Funding for harm reduction in low- and middle-income countries is just 13 per cent of what is needed annually for an ‘effective HIV response among people who inject drugs’, says HRI. ‘The lack of progress in implementing harm reduction measures is a major concern and stunting progress in global health,’ said HRI’s public health and social policy lead, Katie Stone. ‘It is disgraceful that governments continue to ignore the evidence in favour of demonising people who use drugs.’ Report at www.hri.global www.drinkanddrugsnews.com