A joint report by Crest Advisory and Forensic Analytics has found that renewed focus on those exploited by organised crime gangs (OCGs) and the technology used can result in better outcomes in the fight against county lines crime.
Other key findings include:
- Mobile technology has been a key enabler of the ‘how’ of county lines crime to-date
- No value in ‘demonising’ technology used, instead ways of working with technology companies must improve
- County lines criminality cannot be tackled by law enforcement in isolation
- While there is a case for police and the technology industry to work together to disrupt county lines, lack of focus on a shared vision impairs progress
Stark findings in the report showed that information requests from police concerning county lines are not always responded to with sufficient urgency by companies responsible for the data because the harm perpetrated against vulnerable individuals, particularly children, is often misunderstood.
The report calls for a fundamental reframing of county lines discussions to focus on protecting vulnerable children, arguing this would motivate companies to respond faster to data requests and highlight the exploitation involved in such gang activities,
The technology involved in county lines is constantly evolving and those involved have an incentive to adapt their techniques to avoid detection. The report outlines a suite of evidence-informed recommendations for a framework of collaboration between police, technology companies and other agencies involved in the disruption of county lines.
With this clear imperative for law enforcement not to fall behind in the technological ‘arms race’, the report recommends continued investment in capabilities to build on progress to-date, and crucially, to publish successes associated with these capabilities as a deterrent.
Finally, there is an ongoing need for clarification of the legislation surrounding data protection, citing the pausing of the Online Safety Bill as an opportunity to revisit and enhance elements on child protection and exploitation in relation to data sharing.
Steve Rick, CEO of Forensic Analytics, said: “All too often, County Lines crime is seen in terms of the drugs these OCGs move, rather than the horrific human toll wreaked upon vulnerable groups, including children. Whilst we have seen technology and data analytics drive forward huge successes from law enforcement in this area, there are limits to what can be achieved if an ‘us-and-them’ mentality persists between technology companies and law enforcement.”
Joe Caluori, Crest Advisory, said: “This report shines a light on how quickly this type of crime is evolving and the enabling role technology plays on both sides. I believe there is a clear opportunity to improve outcomes against this incredibly destructive form of organised crime, but the scale and complexity of the task should not be underestimated.”
The full report, “Cutting the Head off the Snake” can be downloaded HERE