Sadiq Khan announces more than £7million in funding to tackle criminal gangs

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan  (PA Wire)
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (PA Wire)

More than £7million will be spent to help tackle gangs that fuel the drug trade in a bid to safeguard young people at risk of exploitation, Sadiq Khan has announced.

The fresh funding comes amid rising concern that criminal gangs in London are exploiting the cost-of-living crisis to recruit young people and expand their county lines networks across the UK.

On average, the Metropolitan Police arrests and charges around 11 suspects linked to criminal drugs gangs each week.

Analysis from the County Line Intelligence Collection Matrix shows that London is the highest exporter area for county lines in the UK, accounting for 25 per cent of the national total.

“There is an undeniable link between county lines drug gangs and violence and that’s why I’ve proposed additional funding that will enable the Met to accelerate its work targeting the most dangerous criminals while helping to break the cycle of reoffending and safeguarding our most vulnerable young Londoners from exploitation,” the Mayor said.

The funding, proposed in the Mayor’s draft budget for 2023/4, will enable the Met to precisely target the most dangerous criminals who cause the greatest harm while doing more to help those recover from drug addictions and misuse.

The new investment will bring together partners including the police, local councils and health services to improve communication between treatment providers and courts, prisons, and hospitals with the aim of cutting drug-related crime and breaking the cycle of misuse and reoffending.

Mr Khan added: “This is not just a London problem. Without in any way excusing criminality, the cost-of-living crisis is engulfing the entire country.

“Food and energy bills continue to soar. Too many young people are seeing their opportunities diminish.

“Without strong leadership, action and intervention I’m concerned that we are now at real risk of seeing the reductions of violent crime we’ve achieved in London being reversed and the menace of County Lines gangs growing nationally.

“The Met and City Hall’s work to tackle county lines drugs gangs has already resulted in dangerous offenders being arrested and hundreds more vulnerable young Londoners being safeguarded, but we must do more.

“Violence, like poverty, is not inevitable and this new proposed investment will work to tackle the underlying drivers behind serious violence. This in turn will help us break the cycle of reoffending and build a better, safer London for all.”

Cllr Jas Athwal, London Councils’ Executive member for Community Safety and Violence Against Women and Girls, said: “The toxic impact of violent drug-related crime on London’s communities, and especially our youngest residents, is severe and long-lasting.

“London boroughs fully support this renewed effort to address this. We will be working alongside the Met Police, Mayor, treatment and recovery services, the voluntary sector and other partners, building on the success of borough work as part of the Rescue and Response Programme.

“Boroughs play a crucial role in safeguarding young people and their families, engaging communities and bringing together housing, employment and recovery support locally in a holistic way, and will continue to work collaboratively with local partners to engage and support young people at risk of exploitation.”