Violent turf wars involving 'guns, knives and pickaxes' caused by 'county lines' trade in cocaine

Martin Bentham

Drug gangs from London are fighting vicious turf wars involving firearms, knives, pickaxes and hammers to sell crack cocaine across the country, an official report warned today.

The report, by Public Health England and the Home Office, into “county lines” trade says the drug is being delivered quicker than pizza, by gangs operating around the clock.

It warns the activity is leading to a significant increase in violence in affected areas, involving clashes between rival gangs and the abuse of young people, including the mentally ill and disabled, who are coerced into selling the drug.

The report says that much of the violence is likely to go unreported because victims and witnesses are afraid of the consequences of alerting the authorities.

But it says police intelligence indicates that unreported incidents include cases involving people being burnt with irons or beaten with belt buckles.

There are also more dealers carrying and using weapons, mainly knives but also firearms, according to the report.

“The use of pickaxes, hammers and corrosive substances was also mentioned,” it adds.

Today’s study, which is based on an analysis of trends in six unnamed local authority areas across the country, also highlights the practice of “cuckooing”, in which vulnerable young people and adults have their homes taken over by criminal gangs who force them to sell drugs.