How big city gangs are targeting Welsh communities


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

There has been a steady rise in the number of 'county line' gangs who recruit youngsters to transport and sell Class A drugs from big cities to small towns. We look at the devastating impact the practice has had in Wales.

Figures from the National Crime Agency show there are more than 1,000 county line gangs operating across the UK, with 200 active investigations into them.

Drugs gangs from cities including London, Liverpool and Birmingham are now establishing bases in areas of South Wales, such as Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, to capitalise on an increasing demand for heroin.

A year-long investigation by talkRADIO's Wales-based sister station, The Wave, found that gangs are using methods such as intimidation and cuckooing - which involves targeting a vulnerable person and taking over their home - to establish their presence in the area.

The Wave also uncovered that teenagers were being trafficked in to Wales to act as drugs runners, as well as being tasked with recruiting other children.



Row of houses in South Wales. Image: Getty

Cuckooing victim Tom had his house in South Wales taken over by a drugs gang after a friend let them into his house.

"The person I thought was a friend introduced them to me and asked if they could stay at my home for a couple of days. They didn't mention drugs at first, that's all they said, can we stay at your home for a couple of days," he said.

Tom - whose name has been changed to protect his anonymity - began taking drugs as a university student and later became a regular user of heroin and crack cocaine, which the gang exploited.



"Once they were in they sort of said, we've got an offer for you. We can help you out with your problems, give you what you want, if you'll let us stay in your house and do what we need to do, we can have a business from here.

"Before I knew it they'd taken over my whole house, it happened so quickly."

It was only when he called on the police for help that the gang left his property.

"You have to ask someone for help, there isn't a way to get out of it yourself that I know of," he said. "Once they move on they've taken everything you've got anyway."


Police 'cannot do this on their own'

A police officer in Newport, Wales. Image: Getty

Senior investigating officer at South Wales Police, Detective Inspector Stuart Johnson, said there had been 400 arrests in South Wales over the last 12 months, which were linked with the selling of drugs for county line gangs.

"What we find is enforcement does work, but what we need is a lot more help from partners to protect the vulnerable individuals which are being used by the gangs to carry on their enterprise," he said.



"Ultimately the police alone cannot do this on their own."

Last week a National County Lines Coordination Centre, based in Birmingham, became fully operational.

Set up to tackle county lines crime, the new Centre will bring together 38 experts from the National Crime Agency, police officers and regional organised crime units to work out the full scale of county lines gangs across the UK.