London’s higher education providers take brave steps to better understand the impact of county lines and criminal exploitation on student and staff wellbeing 

London, 20 September, 2023 – London Higher’s report County Lines and Criminal Exploitation in London published today provides a better understanding of how county lines gangs may be operating on and near the capital’s campuses.  

London Higher has commissioned the Home Office’s Violence and Vulnerability Unit (VVU) to conduct locality reviews at six anonymous volunteer institutions from across London to identify any issues; highlight current good practice; and recommend measures that can be implemented to help protect vulnerable students and staff from potentially violent crime and tackle county lines activity where it occurs.  

This report summarises the key findings and recommendations arising from the locality reviews, regarding how county lines and criminal exploitation across London may be addressed by higher education institutions. This collective summary of locality reviews is an innovative approach to addressing county lines activity, with London Higher member institutions at the forefront. The six volunteer institutions have come together to reflect, improve practice and support student success in London, representing a bold and brave step that underlines the importance of student and staff safety and wellbeing to London institutions. 

The report makes a series of recommendations for partnerships, for existing report structures, for data practices, communication, training practices, as well as police-related recommendations and organisational cross-cutting recommendations including: 

  • Involving community links such as chaplaincies and other departments in problem solving and helping to understand the potential scale of county lines issues; 
  • Working with local police intelligence teams to establish a problem profile of county lines in an institution’s borough; 
  • Routine and regular sharing of updates on key themes and trends within the institution and with relevant stakeholders; 
  • Making formal training university-specific to ensure resonance;
  • Using Welcome Week and other introductory events to facilitate targeted events with police as well as with people with lived experience of county lines and exploitation if possible. 

In support of this report, Mark Corbett, Head of Policy and Networks, London Higher said: 

“This is a ground-breaking study that has been done in this area, and would not have been possible without our six members who agreed to take part. We now have a fuller picture of the understanding of county lines operations across a range of provider types and sizes and geographical locations across London, which will enable institutions to better work with their local stakeholders in addressing this issue.” 

Lead of the locality reviews Mick McNally, Violence and Vulnerability Unit, Home Office said: 

“Working with London Higher and the six Universities who recognised the need to further improve their understanding and safeguarding response to this growing county line and criminal exploitation issue in London and across the UK has been a privilege. The recognition that the student population is also at risk from this growing criminal business model that focuses on exploitation and the targeting of vulnerable people is the first step to dealing with it effectively. It’s not hidden, we are just not looking.“