20200310 Leading from the front

Nigel Morris-Cotterill

As I am putting to bed what might be the most ambitious project we will tackle for a while at financialcrimeriskandcompliancetraining.com , a course designed for teenagers and young people up to 24 years of age on avoiding being a victim of financial crime, one big issue has been added at the last minute – the range of conduct that criminals are adopting as their response to the coronavirus / CoVid-19 epidemic / pandemic. Across the world, there are more and more examples of conduct, both in both the physical and cyber worlds.

While doing that, I’ve been doing the final checks on the rest of the content including the so-called “county lines” problem are very valuable.

“County Lines” sounds almost cuddly but it’s not. It’s where children and young adults are being sucked into a world of crime and gangs, sometimes – at first – voluntarily and sometimes as a result of abuse of some form or other. Once in, like all gangs, those that run the operation don’t want people to leave and violence and threats of violence are a persistent theme. In fact, the methods used to keep children as young as their early teens in line are those that have been long seen in prostitution and other forms of abusive behaviour.

“County Lines” is a curious name. It doesn’t mean what it appears to mean. It’s a buzzword based on an esoteric term for a means of communication – land-line telecoms within a county, a “county” being a local government administrative district. It also appears to relate to bus routes between towns and villages.

The concept is simple: get children to act as couriers by carrying drugs, etc. in their school bags, and because all kids carry school bags, they are free of obvious suspicion.

It is a very worrying development although it can hardly be considered new except for the media-friendly tag.

There is a great deal of useful information for parents and teachers and even those who might simply notice something that indicates that a child might have become involved and the police, across the UK in particular, provide much of it.

There are a series of videos at https://northyorkshire.police.uk/what-we-do/tackling-crime/county-lines-… . The content demonstrates the problems from multiple viewpoints and they provide context whereas most material is relatively two dimensional. I like the approach. A lot.

However, there is a very major criticism of them. Originally produced for Manchester Police by a company called “MAD” which stands for Media and Digital, they are essentially illiterate from the very first screen. MaD’s own VIMEO channel at https://vimeo.com/mediaanddigital says “We are MaD, a unique interactive agency. We specialise in the visual communication of new and existing brands from design & print to digital, film & photography.” The problem is that they either can’t even spell, or are so careless in their quality control, that their address is contains an error. It says “MediaCityUK /Widnes Ceshire”. It should be Cheshire.

Details matter. It’s a shame that something so useful can have its credibility undermined by something so silly.