County council commits cash to tackle gangs

Essex County Council is pledging to commit £500,000 to help tackle gangs and county lines activity in the county.

The announcement was made by council leader David Finch at the full council meeting yesterday (Tuesday, February 11).

It is the same amount the council spent last year top help Essex Police protect young people at risk from drugs gangs.

Cllr Finch has described county lines as a real and present danger to communities up and down our county by bringing drugs and associated crime to urban and rural areas of Essex.

He said: “I also know the importance of community safety and the protection of our residents, young and old, from gangs and county lines.

“Last year, we announced half a million pounds for the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner to help tackle this major issue through our violence and vulnerability partnership. This has proven a great success.

“One example – the partnership engaged with hundreds of young people at their most ‘reachable’ moments – like when they come into contact with the hospital in a moment of crisis.

“In these ‘reachable’ moments, if our approach is right, we are finding we can get through to these young people and divert them away from gangs but it is also only the beginning.

“We are happy to commit another £500,000 this year to continue to trial new approaches to supporting children at risk of exploitation from gangs.

“This truly is a budget for all. We have listened to our residents and we have listened to every member in this chamber. We know you want Essex to continue to be a great place to grow up, live and work.”

The cash comes after it was revealed Essex is one of the top destinations for young drug dealers involved in London county lines gangs.

A report from City Hall, which details the reach and type of county lines activity going on in the capital, shows that between January 2018 and April 2019, 121 individuals referred to the City Hall-funded Rescue and Response programme had links to Essex.

That’s more than any other county in the UK besides Norfolk, where there were 416 links, and Hampshire with 369.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter