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Middle-class drug users will be named and shamed, vows Priti Patel and all arrests drug tested

Home Secretary Priti Patel has vowed to ‘name and shame’ middle-class recreational drug users in an effort to cut violent crime.

The minister said she would target wealthy users by introducing drug testing upon arrest, under a £15million plan rolled out across all 43 police forces in England and Wales.  

Ms Patel said many middle-class users refuse to believe they are funding the exploitation of children in county lines gangs, and that some users even felt it was acceptable that seven-year-olds were part of these national narcotics networks. 

The concept is something that already happens throughout England and Wales when people are detained for so-called ‘trigger offences’ but it appears she intends to test all arrestees.

Asked about if she thought middle-class users were too casual about their drug use, the Home Secretary said: ‘There’s no question about this, I’m sorry that I’ve seen through all our work I’m unapologetic about this.

‘The harsh reality is, and I just don’t think drug-users recognise this enough, children are being used as a pawn in that supply chain, kids as young as seven years old.

‘How can anybody think that it’s OK, through addiction, habit or recreational use, to think that that is acceptable?

Priti Patel, pictured today at the Tory conference in Manchester, has vowed to ‘name and shame’ middle-class recreational drug users in a bid to cut violent crime 

Around £650,000 worth of herbal cannabis found during a police drugs raid in the UK

Around £650,000 worth of herbal cannabis found during a police drugs raid in the UK

The Home Secretary said she expected Met Commissioner Cressida Dick to improve force

The Home Secretary said she expected Met Commissioner Cressida Dick to improve force 

‘It is not acceptable. It is completely wrong,’ she added to the Telegraph. 

While Ms Patel said middle-class users would be named and shamed it was not explained what the mechanism for this would be.

Currently police forces refuse to name anyone arrested, but already name them when they are charged with an offence.

In the morning, the Home Office said Ms Patel’s speech may have gone into further detail on any changes, but it did not explain the missing information where it was delivered at the Conservative party conference.

Already some police forces have been texting users of drug dealers after finding their numbers on their phones after arrest.

Middle-class recreational drug users were targeted by at least two forces Thames Valley Police and Nottinghamshire Police.

Elsewhere in the interview Ms Patel added: ‘Drugs devastate lives. They ruin communities and they tear families apart.

One large-scale county lines op - which spanned 18 counties - was infiltrated by undercover officers following a two-year covert operation and stopped £1.3million of drugs from arrival

One large-scale county lines op – which spanned 18 counties – was infiltrated by undercover officers following a two-year covert operation and stopped £1.3million of drugs from arrival

Police found the gang were exploiting vulnerable children as young as 14 and using them to peddle Class A drugs including crack cocaine and heroin on Britain's streets. Pictured: Recovered weapons

Police found the gang were exploiting vulnerable children as young as 14 and using them to peddle Class A drugs including crack cocaine and heroin on Britain’s streets. Pictured: Recovered weapons

What are county lines gangs?

The term county lines refers to the individual phone lines used by gangs to sell and distribute drugs.

The gangs, which are linked to increasing violence in provincial towns and shire counties, recruit children and teenagers to transport drugs from cities to the provinces. 

Figures released earlier this year in a National Crime Agency report showed more than 3,000 gangs were reported by police in 2019 – double the 1,500 of 2018.

It is also a four-fold increase since 2017 when there were 720 operations shipping heroin and crack cocaine from cities to provincial towns.

Despite a crackdown by forces, figures from the National County Lines Coordination Centre show 800 to 1,100 phone lines advertising drugs are active every month.

Gangs are recruiting an army of youngsters to replace those arrested for dealing, with the report warn-ing that children as young as 11 are being intimidated into becoming ‘runners’.

And the number of young people being groomed to become money mules – so criminals can access their savings accounts – has shot up by 26 per cent since 2017.

The report warns: ‘Exploitation in county lines drugs supply remains the most frequently identified form of coerced criminality with children the vast majority of victims.’

‘Testing offenders for drugs will help increase our understanding of drug-fuelled crimes, ensure addicts get the help they need, and ultimately cut crime.

‘I’m here to do a tough job. I have to make difficult and tough decisions and I apologise to no one for that, quite frankly. You don’t become Home Secretary and expect to be liked by everyone and become popular.

‘I’m here to serve my country. I’m here to right many wrongs, I’m here to be an agent of change.’

Ms Patel also touched upon the murder of Sarah Everard and how police officer Wayne Couzens’ arrest had caused a crisis in confidence in the police.

She said forces should take indecent exposures and harassment more seriously in future.

Ms Patel added: ‘Women reporting them should have the respect and dignity that they are due.

‘There is something so corrosive, quite frankly, in society if people think that it’s OK to harass women verbally, physically, and in an abusive way on the street.’

She said that she expected Dame Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to change the direction of crime in London.

Ms Patel said: ‘I’ve been Home Secretary for two years and, believe you me, I’ve had many difficult conversations with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner about what’s going wrong in policing in London.

‘Kids dying on the streets of London. Why is that still happening? Gangs are still infamously on the high streets, in our towns and in our cities as well.

‘And in outer London boroughs we see levels of violence that quite frankly we’ve not seen previously.

‘So we have to move away from all of that.

‘That is very much the framework for the reappointment. I expect change. I absolutely expect change.’

Police target middle class and weekend cocaine users who ‘dial for drugs’: Cops seize dealers’ ‘burner phones’ and text ANYONE who has ever ordered from them with warning that they have been ‘identified’

Middle-class recreational drug users have been targeted by UK police forces warning them they have been identified – after officers seized county lines dealers’ phones.

MailOnline learned at least two major constabularies have used mobiles confiscated from suppliers to find their customers.

Officers have accessed contacts lists on the burner phone handsets to send out the warnings via text.

So far it has been used by Thames Valley Police and Nottinghamshire Police forces.

It fires a shot across the bows for many weekend drug users who may have thought their recreational habit would fly under the radar.

And the developments also raise the prospect that their contact numbers are now on a police system connected to the dealer’s case – even if they only bought something once.

Potentially deadly drugs can be delivered quicker than a pizza in some parts of the country, with couriers arriving by bike in some places to drop off their product. 

One suspected supplier in Bestwood, Notts, provided a hundred leads to officers through his seized mobile.

They were texted to be asked if they had a drug habit or had been exploited by a county lines dealer.

Nottinghamshire Police have sent out messages to contacts of dealer they had busted

Nottinghamshire Police have sent out messages to contacts of dealer they had busted

Thames Valley Police have a similar message which says it wants to give help to users

Thames Valley Police have a similar message which says it wants to give help to users

Mohammed Nasir, 22, of Luton, was jailed for three years and four months for drugs offences

Mohammed Nasir, 22, of Luton, was jailed for three years and four months for drugs offences

In the Thames Valley area the same tactic was used after the illegal-activity mobiles were taken by the force.

Its message says it comes from Thames Valley Police and support group One Recovery Bucks.

It tells recipients that a drug line has been shut down which has identified their number.

The text continues to tell the phone owner ‘We want to help you with your substance misuse’.

It ends with the promise that further information will be sent to the same device.

Caroline Henry, newly appointed PCC for Nottinghamshire insisted the messages were intended to help not warn.

She added: ‘I was elected on a mandate to back communities and this includes cracking down on county lines and the associated exploitation and substance misuse which has such a devastating impact.

‘My priority, and that of the force, is to ensure we place victims and residents at the heart of our policing priorities and get tough on the criminal networks which exploit vulnerable people.

Almost 100 kilos of cocaine seized by Border Force, Sussex and Thames Valley Police in 2020

Almost 100 kilos of cocaine seized by Border Force, Sussex and Thames Valley Police in 2020

‘This innovative approach directs individuals to the support they need, giving them a way out of crime and an opportunity to have a more positive role in our communities.’

Police believe that the simple 10p text message can disrupt drug dealing activities.

They say they decided to carry out the unusual approach following intel vulnerable and young people were being coerced by crime networks to carry out their bidding. 

Detective Inspector Paul Lefford said: ‘It’s crucial that we think of different ways to start a conversation with those vulnerable drug dependent users and help turn their life around.

‘It’s important to reach out to people not only to support them, but by helping them stop their drug abuse, we would see fewer people commit crimes to feed their habit and prevent crime before it happens.

‘By seizing devices during raids, we have an opportunity to obtain a wealth of knowledge that can help with the force’s investigations.

‘Drugs gangs exploit drug users and we know there are people who may feel trapped by their lifestyle or frightened to get help.

‘We want them to know there is a way out and there are people who can help them through our partners if they wish to receive it.

‘Intelligence suggests that people are being exploited to carry out drug dealing on behalf of the line.

‘We’ve made a number of significant arrests recently and will continue to pursue county lines drug activity.

‘The force’s county lines team works closely to our key partners to keep people safe and, whether that’s by prosecuting drug dealers or supporting vulnerable people to break free from a particular lifestyle.

‘Our message is clear, if you a drug dealer in Nottinghamshire and you are looking to recruit, exploit and profit financially by exploiting the vulnerable we will use every tactic available to us to locate, enforce and prosecute you.

Containers being cut into by police investigating county lines

One officer used a power tool to get into the metal box

This morning the Metropolitan Police searched more than 200 shipping containers at a commercial container yard in Purfleet, Essex during dawn raids on a suspected county lines drugs gang.

‘We hope this tactic will be successful. If the support services manage to talk to one vulnerable person and they seek the support they need, then in my view the initiative will have been a success.’

Neither Thames Valley Police nor One Recovery Bucks responded to requests to comment when approached by MailOnline. 

The message was revealed on the same day Thames Valley Police trumpeted the results of an investigation they said showed ‘county drug lines or organised crime’ would be targeted.

It saw a man sentenced for drug and driving offences which took place in Aston Clinton, near Aylesbury.

Mohammed Nasir, 22, of Luton, was jailed for three years and four months at Aylesbury Crown Court.

Police say he had already pleaded guilty to two counts of possession with intent to supply a Class A drugs, namely heroin and crack cocaine, and one count of dangerous driving on April 29.

Officers clocked him at 1pm on December 15 last year, as he drove along the A41 in Aston Clinton in an Audi A6, towards Aylesbury.

When they tried to stop him he sped off and when they were finally able to halt him arrested the motorist.

It was discovered that he was in possession of £1,650 worth of Class A drugs, multiple phones and also cash.

Investigating officer PC Gary Ratcliffe, of Aylesbury police station, said: ‘Nasir drove at speed along the A41, in such a manner causing danger to not only himself, but innocent members of the public.

‘However, swift work from our officers meant that he was arrested shortly after making off, preventing any further dangerous driving and causing any risk to the public on what is a busy road.

‘After being stopped, Nasir was found to be in possession of Class A drugs, mobile phones and cash in his car. He was charged the next day.

‘Now he has been sentenced after pleading guilty due to the strong evidence against him, he can reflect on his offending while serving this sentence.

‘Anyone involved in County Drug lines or organised crime within Aylesbury Vale will be targeted by the Stronghold Team and will continue to be pursed until the line or crime group are no more.’

This morning the Metropolitan Police searched more than 200 shipping containers at a commercial container yard in Purfleet, Essex during dawn raids on a suspected county lines drugs gang.

It is believed the gang used the site for storage, with investigators discovering drugs, cash, weapons and three stolen off-road vehicles in the first few hours of searching. 

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