[A]n event designed to raise awareness to publicise the issue of County Lines will take place this weekend in Carlisle city centre.
The event will see a production of a play which highlights how criminal gangs target young people and vulnerable adults to transport and/or deal drugs to customers.
The event will take place on English Street in Carlisle on Saturday 16th June where regular performances of the play will occur between 11am and 3pm.
Saturday’s event is hosted by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (TITAN), Cumbria Constabulary and Carlisle City Council.
The play comprises two adjoining rooms, in which actors will recreate scenarios seen by police in which criminals have exploited vulnerable people, forcing them to store drugs and weapons, and use as a base for drug dealing.
These victims are recruited using intimidation, deception, violence, debt bondage or grooming. During this process the ‘victims’ are likely to commit criminal offences.
County lines is a term used to describe gangs, groups or drug networks that supply drugs from urban to suburban areas across the country, including market and coastal towns, using dedicated mobile phone lines or ‘deal lines’. They exploit children and vulnerable adults to move the drugs and money to and from the urban area, and to store the drugs in local markets. They will often use intimidation, violence and weapons, including knives and firearms.
Detective Chief Inspector Nick Coughlan, Cumbria Constabulary, said: “This event will be an interactive and impactful way to highlight the issue of County Lines to the public and how to spot the possible signs that someone you know is at risk of being criminally exploited.
“The issue of County Lines is increasingly becoming widespread across the county. By working together with all communities, forces and partners we can educate people on how these organised crime groups look to operate and prevent vulnerable young people and adults from being exploited.
“Victims can be anyone in your community and criminal gangs will exploit vulnerability in all its forms to aid their activities.
“It can only be tackled if the public understand what it is, know how to spot the signs and know what to do if they think a person they know is being exploited.
“Intelligence from our communities is key to the us taking out the gangs responsible, so I would encourage anyone who has concerns about vulnerable people being targeted in this way to come forward and speak to us, either directly or anonymously through Crimestoppers.”
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall said: “This is a great idea to help raise awareness for the public and help prevent people from falling prey to those seeking to exploit individuals, especially the more vulnerable in our communities. These gangs are a scourge on society, and I fully support any initiative that helps to disrupt their activity and keep people safe.”
Carlisle City Councillor Lee Sherriff, Portfolio holder for Communities, Health & Wellbeing added: “The event highlights the growing issues relating to criminal gangs exploiting young people and vulnerable adults. We urge anyone that has concerns, whether directly or indirectly, to contact Cumbria Police or Crimestoppers.”