Police are battling sixteen county drugs lines in just one town in north Northamptonshire.
Kettering has sixteen groups of dealers known to police that are flooding the town with drugs from big cities.
The figures were revealed at a crime and disorder committee meeting at Corby Borough Council on Wednesday. Members of the panel also heard that Corby has just one county line, which is shared with Kettering, East Northants has four, Wellingborough has two and Northampton has fifteen.
Daventry and South Northamptonshire do not have any county lines that police are aware of.
At the meeting, Safer Corby Officer Antonia Malpas said: “County lines are illegal business models operated by gangs to supply drugs to suburban areas and they use dedicated phone lines to do that.”
To help tackle the issue, police are doing ongoing work to combat cuckooing. This is when drug gangs target vulnerable people and take over their homes to use for drug dealing, giving them a free space to peddle drugs in established communities.
The police have started a multi-agency cuckooing forum which enables them to work with local authorities and other bodies on the issue.
Inspector Scott Little said: “We pro-actively put forward the names of vulnerable people who may be at risk of cuckooing and look at what support we can put in around that person.
“But just arresting people at lower levels of county lines doesn’t work because that just creates a gap in the market.”
Ms Malpas added: “Cuckooing is mainly targeting vulnerable people but we are increasingly seeing young people being used as couriers.
“Some signs are that the young people might be those who regularly go missing and then are found out of area. They might be carrying lots of cash or wearing designer clothes and be receiving excessive texts or phonecalls. They might also have developed relationships with older, controlling adults.
“They may show some changes in emotional wellbeing or have unexplained anger.
“This needs a safeguarding response, not a criminal justice approach.”
The Home Office and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire are jointly funding a project called CIRV - the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence. This is a two-year scheme to case-manage individual people and to try to prevent them becoming involved in gangs.
The ongoing Operation Viper has also been a success with hundreds of arrests and drugs and weapon seizures since its launch last July.
- Figures were also revealed for the numbers of serious organised crime gangs operating in all of our districts and boroughs. These are classed by lawmakers as gangs that plan and conduct criminal activity for financial gain. Antonia Malpas said: “They carry weapons and use violence towards each other. (Police have found them with) bottles of noxious substances.”
Corby is said to have three organised crime gangs, one of which is shared with Kettering - a borough that also has a total of three gangs.
East Northants has three organised crime gangs and Wellingborough has four. Daventry has two, South Northants has none and Northampton has a staggering 14 OCGs that police are aware of.
The meeting was told that law enforcers in Northamptonshire have been working with the Home Office report and are currently drawing up a report to come up with a strategic plan on how to deal with the county’s serious crime issues.