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.
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.’ It was identified that Kent Police had no dedicated resources available to identify OCGs and was below the national average for having identified OCGs operating within their force area. OCGs operate within all communities and can influence all types of criminality which cause significant harm and when they are identified they reflect the police are aware of the criminals who are causing the most harm to the public within their districts and can effectively plan to disrupt them in a directed way alongside other partner agencies. The OCGMU is currently staffed with 2 OCG co-ordinators, soon to be 3 following a recent interview process. The co-ordinators represent each Division in the County, along with 4 Research & Development Police Constables, and a Detective Sergeant to supervise the Unit. Since its inception in September 2021 the Unit has increased the amount of mapped and scored OCG’s by 39%.
As of October 2022, there are 50 mapped and scored OCGs in Kent. In the last 6 months, there have been a total of 72 OCG disruptions in Kent and some examples of specific results achieved against them in Kent include one that was dismantled in September 2022 over 3 days whereby several warrants were executed at multiple addresses in Kent. 5 members of the OCG were arrested and a quantity of Class A drugs, cannabis, mobile phones, SIM cards and over £14,000 of cash were seized. One member has been charged with an offence of being a person with a dog dangerously out of control, who later pled guilty at Court. Other individuals remain under investigation.
OCGMU have been responsible for the development and mapping of many new OCGs including OCGs adopted by SOC, Division, Money Laundering Team, Modern Slavey Human Trafficking Team and Financial Investigations as well as NCA/ERSOU. OCGMU continue to work on Division, with 18 of the 50 OCGs managed by Lead Responsible Officers (LROs) on Division, and 32 with SCD. Since its inception in September 2021, the OCGMU have worked hard to become an approachable far-reaching and efficient Unit, working well with others in streamlining the development and OCG nomination process. The OCGMU has recently broadened its focus from not just identifying OCGs, but in the training and education of LROs throughout the force in how to effectively disrupt and dismantle the groups.
OCG coordinators continue to liaise directly with Prison and Probation partners in order to ‘Lifetime manage’ offenders and have imposed prison conditions and licence conditions on OCG members. Liaison with ERSOU/ROCTA has led to this now becoming a recognised ‘disruption’ and one which OCGMU has taken the lead on from its inception. In August 2022 the OCGMU adopted the coordination of Serious Crime Prevention Orders (SCPOs) for the County, which are utilised to limit OCG members capability to commit crime upon release from Prison. Training and OCG awareness are an ongoing focus for the Unit. Along with the bespoke training delivered to Probationers and Detectives, the OCGMU extended it’s offering to the Force Crime Academy in the implementation of three inputs across the Force. September 2022 saw the release of a Spotlight on Insite inviting Officers and Staff to attend 3 Lead Responsible Officer OCG training inputs at various locations across the County. To date, two inputs have taken place with excellent attendance from Officers and Staff, partners from local councils and beyond, and Officers travelling from Essex to attend.
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 July the Force recorded 37 active county lines with a threat, harm and risk score of 571. Specific and concentrated work on this area of criminality has resulted in a decrease with the number of county lines, as recorded in October 22, to 29 county lines with a TRH of 365. (By comparison, in July 2020, the Force had 85 scored county lines). In October the CLGT took part in the National County Lines Intensification week, during which the team targeted 25 county lines, the focused week of activity resulted in the arrest of 26 offenders and the securing of 30 charges against those. It is of note that Kent Police recovered more line handsets than any other force in the Eastern region (10 versus 5 in Essex).
There are a number of notable examples of excellent police work over the last three months including the securing of charges against an individual who was residing in the Edgware area of London supplying drugs into Canterbury. The line had only been recently identified and it was the swift and effective action of the team that dismantled the line within a month of it being nominated on the matrix. What is notable about this operation is that the individual was charged with three offences and remanded into court. This was done without the finding or seizure of any drugs, showing the ability of the team to use complex communication data presented in a simple way to achieve positive outcomes.
In addition to the pursuance of county lines individuals, the officers can be faced with often complex Jury Crown Court trials where they must explain complex criminality in simple terms to Crown Court Judges and Juries. A notable example is where an officer was at a recent trial at Maidstone Crown Court where three defendants were sentenced to 4 years of custody each following a guilty verdict. The Judge commended the officer in the case regarding his excellent investigation and his ability to explain the complexities of it in a simple and effective way.
The Divisional County Lines teams also have 5 County Line intervention Officers (CLIOS) and a co-ordinator who seek to bring together a coordinated response to those vulnerable adults and children who are 'at risk' of criminal exploitation. There is effective liaison with the Missing Child & Exploitation Team (MCET) and the CLIOs work closely with vulnerable children and young people identified through the team’s activity. Their work is contributing to changing the lives of young people working regularly and closely with external partners, in schools teaching about county lines criminality and providing support around complex young street groups and gangs.
The CLGT continue to work in strong collaboration with our partners within the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS); where working together sharing cross border information and intelligence is increasing prosecutions for dealers crossing into Kent from the MPS. Further work with other collaborative partners has seen close working links with British Transport Police (BTP) such as running a recent operation in and around the Medway stations resulting in two good arrests and notable disruptive activity.
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. The team have so far arrested 30 suspects and had convictions to date of 9 years and 4 months. They recently secured charges against three individuals in Medway for drugs offences who had been ‘hard to reach’ in terms of the criminality for a significant amount of time within Kent police.
CLGT activity so far is summarised in the table below: