For this month’s Safer London book club, Service Manager Kendra reviewed Policing County Lines: Responses to Evolving Provincial Drug Markets by Jack Spicer.

I wanted to read this book because I am genuinely interested in professional’s responses to County Lines – especially the police.

I didn’t know what angle Jack Spicer would come from on this subject, or what lens he would use to get his thoughts across. Jack came from the angle of just a person. A person observing what is actually happening in terms of policing and County Lines. And the lens he used was one of truth.

This book is underpinned by the doctoral research that Jack started in 2016 and 14 months of fieldwork alongside the police. Jack draws on his unique ethnographic fieldwork, where he was allowed to sit within police stations and join the police out in the community when they were tackling County Lines.

Policing County Lines is a tour de force for understanding the intricacies of this evolving phenomenon and provides the reader with admirable insight into its origins, the fuller context in which it operates and the ways forward for future policing approaches and wider management partnerships. A must read for anyone wanting to understand complexity around policing in the current age.

Ross Coombe, Professor of Criminology and Sociology, University of Liverpool, UK

What is clear (and what many of us already know) is that the drug market is evolving a lot faster than the professionals who are trying to control it. This can often leave the police feeling frustrated. The book shows how police will often go for arrests around County Lines that are way down the pecking order, such as the drug users or those who have been exploited into drug trafficking activity.

Jack found that for many police he worked with, their understanding of County Lines was limited, which was demonstrated in the language and actions of some of the local policing responses. When I read what some of the police do around County Lines, I felt disappointed. There still seems to be a big gap of knowledge missing. But it was also refreshing to read what feels like the truth, that the police are also just people who are trying to navigate the world of county lines. 

This is an excellent book to read for anyone working with children and young people affected by County Lines, to help them gain a deeper understanding of the support that is available.