New action to tackle "revolting" drug dealing in Harrogate

Harrogate Borough Council have endorsed new measures to tackle County Lines drug-dealing crime.
Harrogate Borough Council have endorsed new measures to tackle County Lines drug-dealing crime.

Local councillors have vowed to do their part in stamping out "revolting" cross-county drug dealing crime, the week after Harrogate was named an "area of concern" by the National Crime Agency.

A raft of measures aimed at helping tackle County Lines crime will be introduced after councillors voted in favour of taking action at October's full meeting of council.

In introducing the motion, council leader Richard Cooper said a briefing from North Yorkshire Police had revealed the specific challenges Harrogate faces in the fight against County Lines - the term attributed to city-based criminals when they traffic drugs into surrounding towns and villages.

"It is what's happening here, people have found a way to promote drug dealing in a way that targets towns and villages," he said.

“It's a thought that revolts me...it's a business model preying on the poor."

Coun Cooper also highlighted the youthful nature of offenders who are often used by the city-based bosses of the dealings to disperse drugs in towns.

"The people doing the dealing on behalf of the big guy at the back from the city, they're very much a victim," he said.

"It is the people who deal these drugs at source who i would bang up for a long time.

"What we need to do is stimulate awareness around the community about when county lines drug dealing might be happening in the community."

That awareness will come in the form of the council actively working to educate landlords and leasing agents in how spot if properties are being 'cuckooed' - the term used when out-of-town crooks commandeer a property to use as a drug-dealing base.

While councillors all voiced support for the move, Liberal Democrat leader Pat Marsh moved an additional action, which would see "safe zones" established at shops and other organisations in the town where vulnerable young people involved in County Lines could get help.

"One thing that has been pointed out was that young people being brought in to our district often don't do it out of their own will," she said.

"It means if a young person is coerced into coming into this district (to deal drugs), if they see that safe places sign whether it be a shop (or a) post office...they could go in and be supported."

While her Conservative counterpart Coun Cooper said he "admired the intention in the amendment", he felt the scheme didn't fit in with tackling County Lines.

He said the safe places scheme was instead based off programs helping at people with dementia or autism, rather than those caught up in potentially violent crime.

"It's not safe for someone to go into a village post office and say I've been chased by someone with a knife, it's not safe to go into a shopping centre in town and say my house is being used as a cuckoo," he said.

It saw the majority of councillors instead vote for the original motion, as the council takes its first major step in tackling County Lines.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter