County line drug pushers 'change the way they operate' to continue importing drugs into Suffolk during lockdown
County line drug pushers have changed the way they operate, allowing them to continue funnelling illegal substances into Suffolk towns during lockdown.
Members of the authority's overview and scrutiny committee were warned by Joanna Spicer, the chairman of the West Suffolk Community Safety Partnership and county councillor, that the number of active county lines fluctuated all the time.
Cllr Spicer told councillors that county line activity dropped at the beginning of lockdown, but said: "Things did go very quiet but my understanding, talking to police, is they found other ways to pop up using other routes and trying to infiltrate existing drug suppliers in the county."
The county lines - named after the mobile phone line used to take orders of drugs - often move between towns to import narcotics.
The gangs running the lines often use high levels of violence, with ringleaders grooming young children to become drug runners and carry weapons.
Lesley-Ann Keogh, West Suffolk Council's families and communities team leader, said numbers of active lines changed on a daily basis and was a complex issue.
"I think it is fair to say at the beginning of Covid it did quieten down a little bit, but in terms of what happened, we saw different things start to come up and different ways of operating," she said.
The council officer added the authority had been working with Suffolk Police during and after lockdown to target the areas of concern.
In the year to April 2020, 146 people have been arrested in relation to county line drug dealing in western Suffolk, the report presented by Cllr Robert Everitt said, with tens of thousands of pounds worth of drugs seized by officers.
During that time there has also been 97 drug warrants, more than £20,000 of cash seized, and 2,089 intelligence reports submitted by staff.