Drug kingpins are to be targeted by the Government in a £148 million bid to “cut the head off the snake” and combat addiction in an operation dubbed “Project Adder".
Boris Johnson announced that £68 million of the extra money will be used to take on county lines gangs which have grown into a £500 million criminal industry distributing illegal drugs from cities to suburban and rural towns throughout the UK.
A further £80 million will be invested in drug treatment services to try to halt re-offending, and slash demand from addicts who are fuelling the gangs and the violence they use to stake out their territories.
Part of the money will go to “Project Adder” – an acronym for Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery – which will direct money into policing and treatment in five drug blackspots.
The Prime Minister said: “It is clear that drugs are a serious driver of the violence which devastates communities and robs young lives. That is why we must take action to cut off supply and cut the head off the snake by tackling the criminal gangs which exploit young people.
“We must also help people to get off drugs in the first place and that is why we are launching Project Adder, a new, targeted approach which will ramp up local enforcement, while at the same time diverting more people into recovery, backed up by the largest investment in treatment in 15 years.”
The cash injection follows a damning report by Prof Carole Black for the Home Office that warned the heroin and crack retail market has been transformed by county lines gangs driving increased violence and the exploitation of young people and vulnerable drug users.
She also warned that funding for drug treatment had fallen dramatically in recent years and in some local authorities by as much as 40 per cent, denying many drug users the support they needed to escape their habit.
Some £40 million of the new money will go to police and other law enforcement agencies to take down county lines gangs and drug kingpins. It brings the total invested to £65 million since November 2019.
The Home Office said the funding had already seen more than 3,400 people arrested, more than 550 county lines closed, drugs with a street value of £9 million, and £1.5 million cash seized, and more than 770 vulnerable people safeguarded.
The extra £28 million for Project Adder will run for three financial years in five areas with some of the highest rates of drug misuse: Blackpool, Hastings, Middlesbrough, Norwich and Swansea Bay.
FAQ | County lines
The funding will allow the police to target local gang leaders driving the drugs trade while better helping people to recover from addictions.
Writing for The Telegraph, Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, said: “This is an ambitious initiative, but I make no apology for that. While people are dying and our communities are suffering, we have a moral responsibility to act.
“Through the new measures will accelerate our law enforcement action against dealers, bear down on their supply lines, and help those with drug problems escape the cycle of addiction.
“By cracking down on criminal gangs and reducing demand for the illegal drugs they profit from, we will make our communities safer.”
The additional £80 million will increase the number of treatment places for people released from prison and criminals handed community sentences.