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Manchester drug runner locked up in Harrogate “county lines” investigation

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A county lines drug runner who claimed he carried a knife to chop apples has been locked up for four years for pedalling heroin and crack cocaine in Harrogate and Ripon.

Curtis Gary Anthony Coburn, 20, from Sale, near Manchester will serve his sentence in a young offenders institute after being sentenced at York Crown Court on Monday 7 October 2019.

Curtis Gary Anthony Coburn

Coburn was a typical “county lines” drug dealer, regularly travelling from Manchester to North Yorkshire where he stayed at various addresses of known and sometimes vulnerable drug users in a practice known as “cuckooing”.

In December 2018, Coburn was found at a property in Harrogate where he told officers he was homeless and was carrying a lock-knife to chop apples and open tins, yet he was in possession of £805 in cash.

In January, officers attended the home of a vulnerable drug user in Ripon and found Coburn alone at the address. He was found in possession of 38 wraps of heroin and cocaine, a bag of cannabis, two mobile phones and £635 in cash.

He was arrested at various intervals during this period and charged with a drug and weapon related offences, he was remanded in custody in July pending his court hearing on 7 October at which he pleaded guilty to the following charges:

Possession with intent to supply heroin – sentenced to two years
Possession with intent to supply cocaine – sentenced to two years to run consecutive
Possessing an offensive weapon (lock-knife) – sentenced to four months
Possession of cannabis x 2 – sentenced to two weeks and one month

He was also sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for breaching a suspended sentence order.

The total custodial time is four years.

Detective Constable Tom Barker of North Yorkshire Police’s Operation Expedite team, said: “Coburn caused misery to communities in Harrogate and Ripon and we are pleased he is now behind bars. He fits the typical county lines drug runner profile and was himself exploited by out-of-town drug dealers further up the chain. As well as taking a potentially dangerous person off the streets, we hope his time in custody allows him to get help to divert his behaviour to something more positive. He is 20 years old and no doubt a victim of criminal exploitation, but that does not and cannot excuse his criminal behaviour.

“We urge any young person who is trapped in such a cycle of criminality to get help and find a way out before it’s too late.”

County lines

“County lines” is the term given to a form of organised crime in which drug dealers from urban areas exploit vulnerable people – including children – and force them to deal drugs in smaller towns and cities. It takes its name from the mobile phone lines used by dealers to communicate between towns, take orders & conduct their “business”. The lines are used to advertise drugs for sale and mass text messages are sent to users letting them know where and when they can buy drugs. The lines become valuable protected “brands”. Violence and intimidation is prevalent within county lines.

Due to the exploitation of vulnerable people associated with it, it is a key, operational priority for North Yorkshire Police.

A major concern for North Yorkshire Police is a practice known as cuckooing, which is where drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person and use it to store and sell drugs. They often use violence and intimidation to achieve this. Cuckooing victims are often drug users themselves, and people who are vulnerable due to a mental or physical disability, their age or lifestyle, such as sex workers and single mothers. They are often given free drugs in return for allowing dealers to stay at their home. Resulting in them being dependent on the dealers and “owing” them a debt.

The force works with housing providers and other partner agencies and carries out regular welfare checks on known victims of cuckooing, and offers interventions including drug and alcohol support. It also uses cease and desist notices which is a formal warning to householders to stop suspected criminal activity.

Members of the public provide invaluable information that helps shape our operational activity and we urge residents to look out for the signs of cuckooing in their neighbourhood and report any concerns they have. Signs to look out for include:

• Increased callers at a property
• Increase in cars pulling up for short periods of time
• Different accents at a property
• Increased antisocial behaviour at a property
• Not seeing the resident for long periods of time
• Unfamiliar vehicles at the property
• Windows covered or curtains closed for long periods
• Communal doors propped open

Call North Yorkshire Police on 101. If you prefer not to speak to the police and wish to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. If you or another person is in immediate danger, always call 999.
DO NOT approach anyone you suspect is being involved in drug dealing, but all the police.

Look out for the signs that a young person you know might be exploited by drug dealers:

• Persistently going missing from school or home and / or being found out-of-area;
• Unexplained money, clothes, or mobile phones
• Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls
• Relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups
• Leaving home / care without explanation
• Suspicion of physical assault / unexplained injuries
• Carrying weapons
• Significant decline in school results / performance
• Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks
• Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being

Call 101 to report information about suspected drug dealing or click here for details of partner agencies who can provide help and support

Last modified: October 10, 2019