London criminal gangs are exploiting vulnerable adults and children to act as couriers to move drugs and cash.
This month Momoh Bangura, 23, from Thornton Heath who played a crucial role in ferrying hard drugs between London and Plymouth was jailed for six years and six months after admitting conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin, money laundering and brandishing a knife as police moved in to question him on a Plymouth street.
Last year Laurence Obasogie, 27, from Thornton Heath was jailed for four years and six months for possessing both heroin and crack cocaine with intent to supply after a police pursuit in Ipswich.
Also last year Hassiem Baqir, from Howberry Road in Thornton Heath, was found guilty of murdering 38-year-old Steve Stannard.
Baqir had travelled to Norwich to deal drugs from Mr Stannard’s flat. His victim was a class A drug user with a chaotic lifestyle.
Bangura, was described as the “trusted lieutenant” of kingpin Anthony Okopie, who was jailed for 12 years. Okopie splashed thousands on cars, designer watches and trainers – banking more than £227,000 in three years.
One of Okopie’s clients was a former beauty contestant Natalie Gentle, who died from an overdose in December 2015 at just 33.
One force, Lancashire has launched a campaign #CountyLines to combat criminal gangs from cities using young or vulnerable people to work as drugs runners.
Young recruits are usually teenagers but can be as young as 10 and vulnerable adults include drugs users, alcoholics, or those with mental health problems or learning difficulties. They travel on their own on the rail network and risk their health by carrying drugs internally. Gang members often use intimidation, making it difficult for their victims to get out of the situation.
The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness amongst members of the public to help individuals to spot the signs and encourage them to report any concerns in confidence to the anonymous Crimestoppers anonymous line: 0800 555 111.