Drug dealers are making fake NHS ID badges to move around freely during the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, a report has revealed.
The National Centre for Gang Research (NCGR) found that members of “county lines” gangs were also dressing as joggers, posting drugs through letterboxes and doing “drive-by” sales to evade police detection.
There have been numerous reports of police officers asking key workers for identification, although official guidance says it is not required.
A report released on Thursday found that as shoppers were panic buying food, dealers were running bulk deals and selling “lockdown party packs” to capitalise on the restrictions.
“Covid-19 has brought swift changes in how drug gangs are doing business, with many dealers adhering to social distancing and safety measures,” said professor Simon Harding, director of the NCGR.
“Vehicles are being used more often to carry out deals arranged by phone, with products thrown from windows and money chucked on the back seat to keep items clean.”
He said the previous model of county lines dealing, which sees children used to transport drugs from urban hubs to smaller towns and rural areas, had been made “too risky”.
“Increasingly dealers are driving runners around, or hiring local people to do the job,” Prof Harding said.
“Street gangs are being forced to find new tactics, such as shifting grooming and recruitment online to social media. This means young people can become ensnared in dangerous gang activity from their phones while their families have no idea and that is a worry.”
The report found that street gangs were being forced to set up their own bases because coronavirus had made the process of “cuckooing”, where they take over a vulnerable person’s home, more difficult.