COUNTRY lines drug dealers disguise themselves as Deliveroo takeaway riders after robbing staff for uniforms across the UK.
These criminals are forcing more than 10,000 kids as young as 13 to peddle heroin and crack cocaine, while carrying firearms.
Getty Images – Getty Country lines drug dealers disguise themselves as Deliveroo takeaway riders after robbing staff for uniforms (stock image)
The National Crime Agency said every force in England and Wales has reported some form of county lines activity.
Weapons including a loaded gun, an axe, a meat cleaver, hunting knives and a samurai sword were also recovered, as well as tens of thousands of pounds in cash, and drugs including heroin and crack cocaine.
Those arrested included criminals already serving prison sentences who were charged with involvement in the supply of class A drugs from behind bars.
The gangs are stealing delivery drivers’ bags and branding so when they are going around on mopeds they look like Deliveroo driversRhiannon Sawyer, of the Children’s Society
There are thought to be around 1,500 of county lines networks in operation in the UK, which involve urban dealers forcing children to carry drugs to customers in more rural areas.
They also “cuckoo” the homes of vulnerable or drug-addicted people to use to stash illegal substances.
Rhiannon Sawyer, of the Children’s Society, told The Mirror: “The gangs are stealing delivery drivers’ bags and branding so when they are going around on mopeds they look like Deliveroo drivers.
“It’s not just the children, it will be adults or young adults. That’s come from raids of properties of victims and police found the branded items like clothes and boxes there.
“We’ve even heard of young people being told to get jobs as takeaway drivers.”
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While Deliveroo said: “We work closely with the police and authorities to tackle crime if it is ever aimed at Deliveroo riders.”
The new National County Lines Co-ordination Centre, set up in September, is mapping the activities of the gangs, which are mainly based in large cities such as London, Liverpool and Birmingham, but operate all over the country.
They commonly use one phone line – that can make up to £5,000 per day – which drug users ring to order illegal substances.
Getty Images So-called ‘County Lines’ operations involve gangs using dedicated mobile hotlines to carry and sell drugs across county borders
Getty – Contributor Depending on their level of involvement, children may be tried as victims or perpetrators (stock image)
These knives were confiscated during raids on county lines gangs
Deliveroo rider trapped above smoke-filled shop