Essex crime commissioner on fight against county lines drugs

Roger Hirst (Con)

Roger Hirst (Con) - Credit: Archant

The battle against county lines drug dealing is more important than ever, according to the Essex crime commissioner.

Roger Hirst has invited organisations that work to reduce crime and safeguard young people to apply for extra funding.

LINKED: Community grants are available for Essex organisationsThe Violence and Vulnerability Community Grants Fund has been specifically created by Roger Hirst because of the impact and challenges that Covid-19 has bought upon local organisations in Essex, Southend and Thurrock that are trying to carry on supporting vulnerable children and young people at this difficult time.

Local registered charities, social enterprises and community interest companies are invited to apply for up to £10,000 for support with work relating to county lines drug operations, gangs and knife crime which has been impacted on or materialised due to Covid-19.

The aim of the fund is to provide support via two funding streams. One is to support existing projects and interventions that are at risk of delivery due to Covid-19, while the second is to help with a one-off special event or activity that is responding to a need that has arisen due to Covid-19.

Mr Hirst said: “While lockdown has been bad for business and bad for family there are kids out there without their usual support networks and who are harder to reach.

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“We can be pretty sure that gangs are reaching out to them in a way we don’t want.

“It is important we do this stuff right now.”

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Essex Police has been celebrating a slew of successes over the summer in its fight against organised drug crime.

More than £21 million worth of class A drugs and £1.85 million in cash was seized in Essex and 13 people arrested as part of Operation Venetic, led in the UK by the National Crime Agency after experts hacked into an encrypted telephone network in July.

And drugs with a value of £128,000 and £230,320 in cash has been seized as part of Essex Police’s Operation Raptor. The operation has also led to 51 weapons taken off the streets and 24 county lines dismantled, along with 127 arrests.

Mr Hirst added: “It’s a mix of heavy hand stuff like Operation Raptor, on street policing and protecting and safeguarding young people and helping them find good ways to lead their lives.

“If we do all three together it works and it looks like it is working.

“What we are doing now is redoubling our efforts around young people.”

Mr Hirst rolled out the violence and vulnerability programme in September last year and is now wanting more focused attention on those in danger of falling victim to recruitment.

Mr Hirst said: “There has been a good opportunity to focus on this particularly pernicious county lines activity.

“It is about this early intervention – working with education at county, also with teachers’ reps, and with the voluntary youth groups and those independent groups.

“It’s finding kids who are not showing up to school and giving them stuff to do which is what we have been doing with sports groups and dance groups and independent groups like boys and girls clubs.

“Louise McKinlay at Essex County Council has done a lot of work particular on those people who are on the cusp and who are managing at the moment and their lives are okay and they can do stuff they enjoy, but if they lose their job and lose accommodation as a result of that then they are in a really difficult place.

“Ultimately it’s to avoid that that we are acting now – that is what this all about.”

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