The Force understands the challenges in tackling organised crime and the significant impact the associated crime types can have on victims and the wider community. Led through the Kent and Essex collaborated Serious Crime Directorate and the Kent Crime Command and delivered locally through CSUs and local teams, the Force is committed to actively combat organised crime and county lines activity in the county.
6.1 Organised Crime Groups (OCG)
The Serious Organised Crime (SOC) team deal with the offences that cause the most threat, harm & risk within Kent targeting Organised Crime Groups (OCG) who erode the economy and communities, those that are responsible for drug importation and supply, firearms offences, aggravated burglary, and theft of ATMs, amongst other high-profile crimes. An OCG is two or more individuals, working together, with the intent and capability to commit serious crime on a continuing basis. It will include elements of planning, control, coordination, structure and group decision-making. These crimes have a significant impact on the public; the OCGs ruthlessly target the most vulnerable, ruining lives. Serious and organised crime is defined as individuals planning, coordinating and committing serious offences, whether individually, in groups and/or as part of transnational networks.
The SOC team continue to work jointly with the Force Intelligence Bureau, sharing intelligence to build a detailed picture of the threat, risks and harm posed. This allows us to better understand serious and organised criminals and their vulnerabilities more effectively and target disruptions to greater effect. The Force work with a wide range of other investigative and enforcement agencies who play key roles in tackling specific serious and organised crime threats. These include but are not limited to HM Revenue and Customs Immigration Enforcement and the Serious Fraud office.
In September 2021 the Organised Crime Group Management Unit (OCGMU) was formed as a response to a review undertaken by the Kent Inspectorate into OCG management. The inspectorate identified an area of improvement that ‘all identified OCGs should be mapped regardless of criminality or victim location.’ The OCGMU consists of one DS, three OCG coordinators and three research and development officers. The officers work closely with LROs to formulate plans and coordinate actions against OCGs. The research and development officers work closely with Divisional colleagues and external stakeholders to identify OCGs, develop the intelligence, and assist in the scoring process with ERSOU.
The OCGMU has been very successful in increasing the number of OCGs from 36 in January 2022 to 56 in January 2023. Similarly, the number of disruptions per quarter have increased from 51 in Q2 2022/23 to 87 in Q3 2022/23. Compared to other forces in the region Kent Police have the second largest number of OCGs, and the second highest number of disruptions in this period. There is a broad spread of primary criminality across the OCGs that are active in Kent. The five most common type of criminality are drug supply (often linked to Western Balkans), money laundering, organised theft, human trafficking and modern slavery.
Recently a police operation took place in connection with a Kent based OCG with links to Albanian nominals, mapped by OCGMU due to the member’s involvement in the drug supply of class A drugs and class B drugs in and around the Maidstone area. Members of the group were arrested for Possession with Intent to Supply (PWITS), resulting in the principal member being remanded, and further disruptions whilst on remand due to the lifetime management of OCG offenders. The remainder of the OCG were then targeted by one of the force’s County Line and Gang Teams, resulting in the arrest and remand of a significant member relating to the running of a drugs line and modern slavery charges, the seizure of £5000 cash and over £20,000 of cocaine. One of the principles was a high-risk DA perpetrator who was remanded in custody. This reflects the importance of targeting OCGs as their activity not only generates huge amounts of crime, but also members are involved in other criminality that affects other areas of policing.
6.2 County Lines.
Kent has 3 divisional County Lines and Gangs Teams (CLGT) who provide a proactive and preventative capability to reduce the harm caused to Kent communities from County Line criminality and Kent-based Gang activity. The CLGT investigate the County Line activity which carries the greatest threat risk and harm. The County Lines targeted by the team are those who supply controlled drugs and fit the current NPCC definition taken the from the 2018 Home Office Serious Violence Strategy, ‘A County Line is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas within the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other forms of ‘deal line’. They are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store the drugs and money and they will often use coercion, intimidation, violence and weapons.’
The County Line Threat Assessment Matrix is used to prioritise the work of the CLGT. Before a County Line is scored to be entered onto the Matrix it must fit the above definition with auditable information as to how it fits the definition. The matrix scores are determined using various threat, risk and harm factors. It prioritises County Lines which exploit children and the vulnerable, providing an effective response to the most vulnerable people, tackling violence, and taking a child-centred approach. The divisional CLGTs will undertake the investigation of the top 30 scoring County Lines on each division, however where there is an operational need to flex across divisional boundaries to tackle increased threat, risk and harm (TRH) within a given district or division then the CLGT will retain the ability to do this.
In January 2023 the Force recorded 34 active county lines with a threat, harm, and risk score of 441. Whilst specific and concentrated work on this area of criminality has resulted in positive outcomes, there is an increase in the number of county lines, compared to October 2022, when there were 29 county lines with a threat, harm, and risk score of 365. (By comparison, in July 2020, the Force had 85 scored county lines). Another intensification week took place at the end of February 2023, where further enhanced activity on the current county lines was carried out achieving some positive results.
There are also several notable examples of excellent police work over the last three months which includes the securing of charges against an individual who was the line holder for Kent’s top scoring county line, he was located by the proactive strand of the CLGT, in possession of the line phone. At court he was remanded into custody and charged with ‘Being Concerned in the Supply of Class A Drugs’.
The team also responded to a cuckooing concern of a vulnerable adult; their intervention ensured the safeguarding of the vulnerable adult and a child who was being exploited through a county line. This piece of work resulted in joint safeguarding and intelligence work with Oxfordshire where the child lived; exploration around the circumstances of the child’s exploitation are ongoing and modern slavery offences are being investigated.
In addition, the team has also worked with Kent’s serious and organised crime team to dismantle a drug line which came to light within their OCG investigation. This resulted in proactive activity and the arrest of two persons, one of whom has been charged and remanded for not only drugs offences but modern slavery offences towards the second person who is now safeguarded.
The CLGT also continue to work in strong collaboration with our partner agencies and other police forces sharing cross border information and intelligence is increasing prosecutions for dealers crossing into Kent from the Metropolitan Police. Further work with other collaborative partners has seen close working links with British Transport Police (BTP) which continues.
Kent Police Central County Lines and Gangs Team commenced in February 2022 with the remit to dismantle county lines that pose the highest threat risk and harm on Kent communities by identifying upstream opportunities and developing lines identified by the divisions which require a complex investigation and potentially covert tactics. They seek to identify those controlling the line holders and profiting from the supply of Class A drugs. Since then the team have developed intelligence which has resulted in 5 complex operations. To date those responsible have received convictions of 9 years and 4 months. Following on from initial success a further 4 persons have been charged on another operation, 2 more operations are at the CPS consultation stage and the newest operation has already generated 5 arrests.
Rolling year to the end of January 2023; for the County Lines and Gangs Team are as follows: