Drug dealers 'dressing as joggers' or using fake NHS badges to move around during lockdown

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Drug dealers are dressing as joggers or using fake NHS ID badges to move around freely during the Covid-19 lockdown, according to an expert on gangs.

Professor Simon Harding, director of the National Centre for Gang Research at the University of West London, said “county lines” gangs are finding new ways of doing business.

The academic said many dealers are “heeding government advice on social distancing”, turning to social media, “drive-by sales” or letterbox drops to avoid infection.

But some have dressed as joggers to avoid police detection, while others have made fake NHS ID badges to continue street dealing, according to Prof Harding.

Prof Harding said the lockdown and travel restrictions are affecting the “county lines” gang model – which sees young and vulnerable people used as couriers to move drugs and cash between cities and smaller towns.> The new tactics have also led to a reduction in so-called “cuckooing” – where gang members take over the home of a vulnerable person to cut, sort and deal drugs – because it is seen as too risky for health, he explained.

Boats left on a deserted beach on Southend seafront in Essex

Last month, National Crime Agency director general Lynn Owens said prices are rising with fewer drugs entering into the UK.>She said some drug dealers are trying to disguise themselves as key workers by wearing high visibility clothing or operating from supermarket car parks as they adapt to the coronavirus lockdown.