County lines: Almost half of North Yorkshire drug-dealing arrests under 18
Almost half of the 40 people arrested in the hunt for cross-county drug-dealing criminals in North Yorkshire this year have been under the age of 18.
The update comes as the region's police reveal they are increasingly liaising with local schools to help identify vulnerable students who could be at risk of drug use or exploitation from so-called 'County Lines' gangs.
The revelations from two of the region's most senior police, Inspectors Penny Taylor and Steve Breen, were presented to members of Harrogate Borough Council's overview and scrutiny committee, as the actions being taken to clamp down on regional crime was discussed.
According to the pair, police hunting drug-dealing crooks in North Yorkshire this year have identified 'lines' coming into the region from as far away as Birmingham, Manchester, Bradford and Leeds, with school-age children using a variety of transports to avoid detection.
Yorkshire teenagers facing threats from 'County Lines' drug dealers “We're seeing drug-dealers involved in County Lines using different modes of transport - hire vehicles, taxis, trains and buses...it's an area of concern for us," Inspector Taylor told councillors.
North Yorkshire Police have previously said that the county's huge borders made it particularly vulnerable to County Lines, the term used when drug gangs from big cities expand their operations to smaller towns.
Since January, 40 arrests have been made as law enforcement crack down on cross-county crime in Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon, with around 15 of those arrested less than 18 years of age.
Increasing number of children under 10 roped into county lines crime, police sayThe youthful nature of offenders has seen North Yorkshire increase the number of officers and Police Community Support Officers liaising with local schools to identify vulnerable young people at risk of becoming involved in the crime.
Councillors were also told that five convictions had been made so far in 2019 in relation to county lines crime, the most notable of which involved a 22-year-old male from Bradford sentenced to five years and two months for possession and intent to supply Class A drugs, as well as dangerous driving.
Wealthy Yorkshire towns targeted by county lines drug dealers, expert saysAccording to police, the man was arrested four times over 10 days during January in Harrogate.
Police intelligence suggested that he was working on behalf of a county line operating out of Bradford and into Harrogate dealing heroin and crack cocaine.
Police said he was taking advantage of local drug-users by using their homes as a base to deal from - a practice known as 'cuckooing' - and exploiting their local knowledge to set up a customer-base.
In one incident, he failed to stop for police vehicles resulting in a high-speed chase which police said put "numerous lives at risk".
On the final occasion he was arrested he was found in possession of what police termed a "significant quantity" of Class A drugs.
He subsequently plead guilty to the charges in court.
As of July 2019, police have identified three lines into Harrogate and Knaresborough, and one current line into Ripon.
Inspectors Breen and Taylor also appealed to councillors to let their constituents know to report suspected drug dealing incidents to Crimestoppers, or contact North Yorkshire Police directly.
Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter