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County lines: Force twice told to share intelligence with NCA


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Agency's ability to provide authoritative picture of threats undermined by other law enforcement bodies not sharing info, say HMIs.

County lines: Force twice told to share intelligence with NCA

Opportunities to increase the law enforcement response against county lines drug dealers and other serious criminality may have been missed, according to the inspectorate.

An HMICFRS report into the National Crime Agency found gaps in the organisation’s understanding of threats, partly because of a lack of information shared with it.

A particular concern identified was with British Transport Police, which HMIs found did not provide its intelligence assessments to the NCA.

The report says: “During our fieldwork we found that the force was not providing its intelligence assessments to the NCA, which undermines the NCA's ability to provide the single authoritative picture of threat.

"There is a form of criminality [county lines] that adversely affects communities in various parts of the UK, where provision of British Transport Police intelligence could have enhanced the picture.”

HMIs raised this problem with the railways force on two separate occasions and said the information sharing should begin with immediate effect.

A charity estimates that around 4,000 teenagers in London are being exploited by county lines gangs.

The inspectorate also says some regional organised crime units (ROCUs) were not sharing all their intelligence with the agency, with one even sending it to the wrong email addresses.

“The ROCUs play a vital role in providing the aggregated intelligence picture in each region; incomplete or irregular submission of their intelligence should not be accepted,” it adds.

The PSNI was also not routinely sharing its intelligence assessments with the body, but senior leaders told HMIs they will start to do so.

The report concludes the NCA can fulfil its function only if other law enforcement bodies work with it while there are some gaps in understanding of the threat.

It adds: “This is not insurmountable, but it can only be achieved through a refinement of the NCA's information-collection processes and a more consistent contribution of intelligence by law enforcement partners.

“This is essential if the NCA is to achieve the single authoritative threat picture to which it aspires, and, more importantly, on the basis of which the national response to serious and organised crime is determined.”

A British Transport Police spokesman said it has been working on the HMICFRS feedback for months.

He said: “We know that county lines drug trafficking is a national issue and that BTP has a vital role to play in tackling offences. Since January this year, BTP assessed how the force was sharing intelligence with our partners and made a number of changes following recommendations from the HMICFRS.

“Likewise, since last year, officers from BTP now attend daily tasking meetings with the NCA to ensure that concerns are immediately addressed and intelligence is shared swiftly.

“By working closely with police forces nationally, including the NCA, we’re working to clamp down on county line offending and make the railway a hostile environment for criminals.”

An NCA spokesman said: “We welcome the HMICFRS latest inspection into the NCA’s national tasking, coordination and governance arrangements, and its conclusion that these are generally working well.  

"The NCA has designated county lines a high priority, and is leading the national law enforcement response to it. 

"Over recent years we have worked continuously with partners to improve the picture of the threat from a relatively low base, and that has been an ongoing process. We now engage systematically and productively with ROCUs and police forces, including British Transport Police.

"Together with the National Police Chiefs' Council we’re establish a County Lines Co-ordination Centre, and our role in that will chiefly include mapping the threat nationally and prioritising action against the criminals presenting the highest risk.”

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It looks like the bosses are taking stock of this naming and shaming by sorting out their lines of communication. There's little excuse in this day and age for a silo mentality when it comes to sharing intel, especially when it feeds in to the National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime. To quote the 2018 NSA:-

269.The geographical concentration of firearm recoveries and discharges continues to be in the main metropolitan areas, with some provicial forces also having significant issues (often relating to ‘county lines’ drugs supply and community demographics).

285. ‘County lines’ relates to the supply of Class A drugs (primarily crack cocaine and heroin) from an urban hub into rural and coastal towns or county locations. County lines drug supply networks are reported to be impacting on all 43 police forces in England and Wales, Police Scotland and British Transport Police. Criminal groups continue to pose a significant threat to young and vulnerable people, who are exposed to physical, mental and sexual harm. The groups use a range of methods to identify potential victims. The consequences of county line markets include serious violence and physical harm, incidents of kidnap, use of weapons (including firearms), ruthless debt control, turf wars and homicide.

286.Gang members and those they exploit continue to be transient between urban hubs (exporting) and non-urban areas (importing) such as rural, coastal and market towns, but with an emerging trend for some offenders to settle within the community in which the county lines market is established.

287. London continues to be the predominant urban source of county lines offending, although a number of other export hubs, including Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Wolverhampton (as well as other towns and cities), have been reported across the country reflecting the growth and evolution of the threat.


Although BTP grab the headlines (and this thread's tag) it seems that PSNI and some ROCUs also have some work to do.

Edited by Billy Blue Tac
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I wonder if the information flows freely the other way...

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7 minutes ago, Mac7 said:

I wonder if the information flows freely the other way...

This isn't mentioned in the press release, however I'm sure that there are many areas across all of law enforcement that can be improved but don't make catchy headlines.

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BTP police the main supply routes of county lines operations. I doubt that they have wilfully withheld information but I do wonder to what extent they are proactively policing this?


Unaccompanied teenagers on long distance routes that commenced in London are prime targets for a pull but are there many intelligence led operations where tickets are inspected just outside London to flag this cohort?


The reality is that there is limited imperative for BTP to consider this a strategic policing objective that is a priority to their core mission. Nonetheless, I doubt that BTP are wilfully withholding intelligence from the NCA.



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