New research on County Lines

County Lines is a serious ongoing professional challenge, well documented by Simon Harding in his 2020 book County Lines: exploitation and drug dealing among urban street gangs (Bristol University Press).

Now NTU doctoral researcher, Barbie Nash, is conducting new research about ‘To What Extent are County Line Participants’ Entrepreneurs, Offenders or Victims?’ An East Midlands Analysis.

Barbie is a researcher at Nottingham Trent University’s Nottingham Business School and is supervised by Professor Ian Clark, Dr James Hunter and Dr Huw Farnall-Williams.

Prior to this current research, she worked for the Nottingham City Council, for the children and families department for nearly 6 years and delivered training to primary/secondary schools, colleges, Universities and community sectors around spotting the signs of modern slavery. Barbie currently works with Hope For Justice (anti-slavery) charity as one of their ambassadors, speaker, University engagement outreach and lead of the Nottingham abolition group.

County Lines: an emerging economic industry

This new research explores the issue of county lines (CL) from a distinctive perspective, by examining CL as an emerging economic industry, (focusing on the supply process aspect); where the offenders are adopting entrepreneurial like strategies, mimicking real business structures.

The research is critically investigating the tactics, mindsets, and self-identification of those involved in CL (offenders and victims as the main participants), as well as how CLs have migrated to East Midlands from London.

The approach is to evaluate the extent to which opportunity structures and entrepreneurial mindsets motivates the behaviour and practice of participants in County Lines across the East Midlands. This will be achieved by examining entrepreneurial and environmental criminology theoretical underpinning literature. The study will adopt a qualitative data method (a narrative structure) and empirical research approach through (1) face-to-face interviews and (2) observations to acquire data that will enable to address the research aim.

Making a difference

This new important work will address knowledge gaps by adding value to current research through examining the evolution of CL and by creating better opportunities for robust multiagency and partnership work.

The original contribution of the proposed thesis is three-fold.  Firstly, this will be the first academic study of CL using an entrepreneurial and opportunity structures perspective. Secondly, it will deliver original insights into who these perspectives can be employed to understand the circumstances and motivations of both, offenders and victims. Thirdly, it will make a major contribution to extend the existing CL and criminal entrepreneurship literature by focusing upon the aspect of criminality within the East Midlands (as opposed to the London-centric focus adopted by previous studies).

EMPAC asked Barbie what she intended to achieve in her research:-

“I want to help children and young people who are physically and mentally exploited through county lines by enabling her research to be a platform for victims/alpha victims’ voices to be heard and encourage the importance of early interventions to help and support victims of child criminal exploitation.”

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