Detective Inspector (DI) Tanya Steele
introduced herself and explained that the Operation Raptor team
within Essex Police operated county-wide and was dedicated to
tackling county lines drug distribution and high harm groups within
this. She explained that the Operation Raptor team was embedded
within the Serious Violence Unit and followed the ‘Triple P
Model’ of prevent, protect, and pursue to reduce the risk of
harm to Essex residents. DI Steele clarified the definition of
county lines, which was gangs and organised criminals who export
and distribute illegal drugs within the UK using dedicated phone
lines, and had been agreed upon in Serious Violence Unit Strategy
2018. She explained that the county line gangs often used young
people to move and store drugs, and used violence and sexual
violence on these young people. DI Steele added that Operation
Raptor had a very specific mandate regarding county lines gangs, as
their operations focussed on the suspects who could cause the
highest harm. She clarified that this was assessed based on
categories such as the likelihood they could cause child sexual
exploitation and commit acts of sexual violence. She stated that
the team focussed on individuals with significant roles in county
lines operations, which often meant that investigations were
complex and focussed on building cases to ensure the police could
prove high culpability. She stated that the Operation Raptor team
focussed on significant individuals as these had the highest impact
on the county lines operation when they were removed. She confirmed
that when the arrest of an individual was made, the Operation
Raptor team usually had a case prepared to ensure the Crown
Prosecution Service could try for the highest or most appropriate
DI Steele moved on and explained that the ‘Triple P Model’ utilised partnership working, both within the police force and wider communities. She explained that as county lines operators often used vulnerable young people to do their work, it made it harder to find the operators themselves. She added that the team also worked with the community to help with the vulnerabilities of young people, who could be arrested if found working for county lines, but would be signposted to the relevant support networks. She added that the team worked closely with the Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit (EVVU) to reduce vulnerabilities and programmes regarding this were ongoing within Thurrock. She added that the team also used injunctions as a preventative measure to steer young people away from danger, and she had found this to be effective due to the stringent measures put in place. She highlighted that seeking a gang injunction was a time-consuming process due to the level of case-building required, but it formed one of the tactics used by Operation Raptor.
Councillor Ralph asked how many successful prosecutions had occurred within Thurrock in the last 12 months. DI Steele replied that she would send these figures to the Committee after the meeting. Councillor Ralph queried which community groups the Operation Raptor team worked with. DI Steele replied that the team worked closely with the Community Safety Partnership (CSP), as well as other teams within Essex Police to ensure vulnerable individuals were safeguarded. The Thurrock CSP Manager added that the CSP met monthly with the Operation Raptor team, the Youth Offending Service, the child safeguarding team, the adult safeguarding team, social workers, the housing team, and British Transport Police to discuss gang related violence. She explained that the teams met to discuss warrants from Operation Raptor to ensure these were followed up by the Council, for example ensuring that if the person with a warrant lived in council housing, the housing team were aware. She stated that lots of partnership working was done on this issue and ongoing action plan was in-place for both the preventative aspect and the pursuant aspect undertaken by the police.
The Chair asked how successful Operation Raptor had been in preventing young people from joining gangs. The Thurrock CSP Manager confirmed that this was measured using robust Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and was managed through the gang related violence team. She stated the KPI data was shared to the Health and Wellbeing Board, and could be shared with the Committee after the meeting. Councillor Chukwu asked which areas in Thurrock were targeted by the Operation Raptor team. DI Steele explained that the team did not focus on one area, as county lines ran across the UK and they focussed on lines being run by county lines gangs which caused the most harm. The Thurrock CSP added that Thurrock received funding for preventative measures from the EVVU, which was granted by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner. She explained that the EVVU had undertaken detailed analysis based on where offenders lived, rather than where they offended, and targeted schools in this locality. She stated that in Thurrock these areas were Grays, West Thurrock, and Tilbury. Councillor Chukwu asked how effective the Operation Raptor team and if they had the resources they needed. DI Steele felt that the team were very effective as they prioritised cases where the most harm could occur and focussed on individuals controlling lines, rather than drug runners. Councillor Ralph queried the preventative funding received from the EVVU and asked if the funding could be spread across the borough, including in the east. The Thurrock CSP Manager explained that the Council did not have control where this funding was allocated, as it was prescribed from the EVVU. She added that the funding areas were reviewed annually, so if areas in the east of the borough were shown to have met the criteria then the funding would be moved. She stated that Thurrock CSP received a small amount of funding for preventative issues, and this funding was used to tackle identified issues, for example the park in East Tilbury. The Thurrock CSP Manager explained that the team had organised a pop-up event in an East Tilbury park to talk to the community about preventative measures, and as a result of this the youth team were funded to deliver further preventative work in that area.
DI Steele left the meeting at 7.24pm.