Serious violence and drug related offending - commonly referred to as ‘county lines’ - has been an emerging issue across Essex in recent years.
Anecdotal information has, in the past, informed our understanding of the criminal, sexual and financial exploitation of children and vulnerable adults linked to county lines activity in coastal and rural areas within Essex. The impact on victims has been far reaching and in 2017 partners in Essex, including, but not limited to, public health, education providers, Essex Police and the local and district authorities commissioned the production of a high-level strategic intelligence product, using shared intelligence from across the public sector to get an accurate view of county lines activity from a multi-agency perspective.
Essex Partners welcomed the opportunity to use the Essex Data platform as a mechanism to deliver this work and move partners towards an improved understanding that would identify additional opportunities for disruption and enforcement in the short term and produce evidence to plan for longer term prevention and early interventions.
Essex County Council and Essex Police used the Essex Data programme to combine data from Adult Social Care, Children Social Care, Community Rehabilitation Company, Drug and Alcohol Treatment services, Education, Essex Police Athena system, Youth Offending Service records and additionally Experian Mosaic market research and lifestyle data, which provides a detailed view of communities in respect of housing, employment, health and social trends.
All of the data was pseudonymised by the Essex Data platform, which safely and securely removes all personal information so that individuals could not be identified.
What did we learn?
Using partnership data we were able to develop a joined-up picture of violence and vulnerability across Essex, doubling our existing data and intelligence, as a result we now have a more accurate map of the hot spots, and a greater understanding of the areas of vulnerability, which is helping to inform the gangs, violence and vulnerability task force.
Our work identified approximately 16,000 households within Essex that meet one of the vulnerability risk criteria, which is approximately 4% of the total households in the county. Of those 16,000 households, the presence of serious and drug related violence, or being identified at risk from county lines recruitment, equated to 0.4% or approx. 2,500 households.
Households identified as 'most at risk' of being targeted by county lines included individuals with; a history of substance misuse; missing person episodes; pro-criminal peer; high levels of unauthorised absence from education; fixed term exclusions; being a previous victim of any violence (including domestic abuse); and residing in a deprived output area (up to 30% most deprived). No single combination of risk factors could uniquely forecast the likelihood of involvement in serious and drug related violence, however, those households that appeared routinely at the greatest risk possessed a higher number of risk factors spread across the different domains (societal, community, relationship, individual and educational risk factors).
This data and intelligence has already informed Essex Police strategic planning to prevent violence both now and in the future, and was used to attract £664,000 of Home Office funding to help tackle the complex issues of serious violence, youth exploitation and drug gangs in Essex.
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said:
“Essex has the highest number of violent incidents linked to Urban Street Gangs and County Lines across the Eastern Region. While serious violence has increased at a lower rate in Essex than the rest of the country, it is still rising and is a high profile area of crime that is having a significant impact on our communities.
“Working with partners across Essex we have developed a Violence and Vulnerability Framework which outlines our approach. To support this work we also submitted an ambitious bid to the Home Office Early Intervention Youth Fund for additional funding to tackle this growing threat to our communities. I am delighted that it was successful.”
The money will be used to establish a Violence and Vulnerability Unit. The unit will see officers from Essex Police, the Youth Offending Service and other agencies come together to undertake joint operations, interventions, and ensure sharing of relevant data and intelligence led by a violence and vulnerability project manager.
There will also be increased investment in awareness and education programmes as well as new, evidence-based preventative interventions to prevent young people from being exploited by criminal gangs.
Last updated 10/12/18