POLICE, businesses, councils, the NHS, the charitable and voluntary sector, schools and individuals must work together to tackle the menace of 'county lines' drug trafficking, says Gwent's Police and Crime Commissioner.

Jeff Cuthbert welcomed a new national report looking at how police forces deal with the issue, and agreed with the finding that a more co-ordinated approach is needed.

The report, from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), looked at how county lines drug trafficking in UK is dealt with at local, regional and national levels.

It concluded that, while police forces and the National Crime Agency have successfully improved their understanding of the issue, existing models of policing are too disjointed to allow for the most effective response.

“Serious and organised crime affects all communities across Wales. We know county lines drug networks, driven by organised crime gangs, result in complex crimes, often hidden from public view," said Mr Cuthbert.

"Perpetrators target some of the most vulnerable people in society and no single agency can resolve this problem.

“The issues arising from county lines networks are much wider than just policing. We need police, businesses, local authorities, the NHS, the third sector, schools and residents to work together.

“Fortunately, here in Gwent, we are at the forefront of some trailblazing work that is already making a significant difference in our communities.

"A series of interventions identified in the Home Office’s Serious Violence Strategy are being tested to identify what works in tackling the drivers of serious violence. They include one-to-one direct intervention and holistic support, delivering positive activities through sporting intervention and, of course, education and awareness.

“This programme aims to address the lack of early intervention and preventative activity when risk factors associated with serious violence are evident.

"This includes the prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences where young people and families are at risk, and the associated impact this has on policing and other services.

"We are working with partners like Barnardo’s and the St Giles Trust address these issues in our schools.

“Delivery partners are working with neighbourhood police as well as major crime and intelligence teams to identify groups at risk of exploitation. They are also working closely with education and youth services, housing providers and third sector partners.

“Fearless, the youth service of Crimestoppers, is a key delivery partner. Using a youth work approach, Fearless is talking to young people in our communities about serious violence in a non-judgemental way and help empower them to make positive, informed decisions about crime and criminality.”

The inspectorate identified positives including the setting up of the national county lines co-ordination centre (NCLCC), effective use of modern slavery legislation by police forces, and good use of ‘intensification weeks’ where the NCLCC co-ordinates law enforcement activity during dedicated weeks of action against county lines networks.

But HMICFRS warned that the lack of a fully integrated, national response meant that investigations are often less effective than they should be, and noted concerns regarding organised crime mapping, competing priorities, and limited use of telecommunication restriction orders.

“To tackle cross-border crime, there needs to be a cross-border response. Our inspection revealed that policing is currently too fragmented to best tackle county lines offending," said HM Inspector of Constabulary Phil Gormley.

"Our report therefore contains a list of recommendations designed to facilitate the creation of a national, co-ordinated response to county lines offences.”