Johnson pledges to smash ‘county lines’ drugs gangs


Boris Johnson is pledging to break up 2,000 “county lines” drugs gangs in a £300 million drive to rid the country’s streets of illegal narcotics.

The Government is to set out its 10-year drugs strategy for England and Wales, with a police crackdown to cut off the supply of class A drugs by city-based crime rings to the surrounding county areas.

At the same time it will include what ministers say will be the biggest increase in investment and recovery in an attempt to end the cycle of addiction and repeat offending.

The Home Office said there are 300,000 heroin and crack addicts in England who are responsible for nearly half of acquisitive crime, including burglary and robbery, while drugs drive nearly half of all homicides.

The total cost to society is put at nearly £20 billion a year.

Among the measures in the strategy is an expansion of drug testing on arrest, with police encouraged to direct individuals who test positive towards treatment or other relevant interventions.

This could include attendance at drug awareness courses with criminal sanctions for those who continue to use.

Judges will be given the power to order drugs tests on offenders serving community sentences for drugs-related crimes, with the prospect of jail if they test positive.

When dealers are arrested, police will be able to seize their mobile phones and use them to send messages to their clients to discourage drug use and direct them to support.

The measure is designed to remove the feeling of anonymity when people purchase illegal drugs by making them aware the police know what is going on.

A behaviour change campaign will be piloted on university campuses to help understand which messages work in discouraging drug misuse at an early stage.

The deterrent and preventative measures will run alongside an aggressive campaign aimed at the drugs gangs, with a commitment to dismantle over 2,000 county lines over the next three years involving thousands more arrests.