Horsham’s police chief has hailed significant progress in the fight against gangs from London dealing drugs on our streets.
Chief Inspector Miles Ockwell said there has been a visible drop in violence in the town and surrounding area, as police get to grips with the emerging threat of ‘county lines’ drug dealing.
He said: “We have had a reduction since April in violent offences in Horsham and again we have significantly reduced the number of addresses where there is cuckooing.
“We have a much better understanding of what is happening.”
‘County lines’ refers to gangs and organised criminal networks which bring drugs into suburban, rural and coastal areas, using dedicated mobile phone lines, according to the Crimestoppers charity.
We have a much better understanding of what is happeningChief Inspector Miles Ockwell
The gangs move into a rural or suburban area for a short time, taking over the home of a vulnerable person where they set up a base, a practice known as ‘cuckooing’.
County lines is generally marked with a high level of violence, preying upon vulnerable adults and child sexual exploitation.
Many of those taken advantage of by these gangs have been forced to carry out criminal activity by threats, grooming and extortion and can be described as modern day slaves, the charity said.
A recent example of county lines that came to the public eye was the brutal murder of beloved Horsham father Anthony Williams.
Nicholas Bridge, 18, and Daniel Onofeghare, 20 were found guilty of killing him following a three-week trial in June. Bridge, from Brixton, was found guilty of murder.
Onofeghare, of no fixed address, was found guilty of manslaughter by majority verdict.
When sentencing them at Brighton Crown Court in July Judge Jeremy Gold QC told the pair it was a ‘merciless, premeditated killing’
He added: “You were running what had become known as a ‘county line’ from London, using addresses of vulnerable drug addicts in Horsham to supply local users, a form of activity known as ‘cuckooing’.”
Speaking to the County Times, Ch Insp Ockwell said some of their recent success against county lines follows ‘a number of significant prosecutions in Horsham’.
He said: “Not just the murder, there have been a number of [prosecutions] for other offenders in relation to knife crime.
“I think we are in a much better position now to know who is committing these offences.”
The district commander added that the cut in violence has been also due to police’s increased working with partner agencies.
“It is still a challenge but I think we are in a much better place than we were.”
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