Book review: County Lines: Exploitation and Drug Dealing among Urban Street Gangs

Published date01 December 2020
Date01 December 2020
AuthorProfessor Anthony Goodman
Subject MatterBook reviews
County Lines: Exploitation and Drug Dealing among Urban
Street Gangs
Simon Harding
Bristol University Press; 2020, pp. 30; £26.99, pbk
ISBN: 978-1529203080
Reviewed by: Professor Anthony Goodman, Department of
Criminology and Sociology, Middlesex University, UK
Simon Harding has written an important book on the phenomenon County Lines
(CL), whereby drugs are couriered around the country to be sold to local users; a
phenomenon that has become known to the general public. However, do profes-
sionals have a more informed knowledge of this worrying development? In this
respect Harding’s book is a welcome addition to the field as it covers the growth of
street gangs and street markets, to which he adds the evolution of social media. I
would advise the reader to keep a glossary of terms from the start as they appear in
abundance, leading me to go back and do this.
The critique of Urban Street Gangs (USGs), a key theme in the monograph,
continuing the Bourdieusian field analysis from his earlier book, The Street Casino,
where he examined how young people, as ‘street actors’, pursued dominance
within gangs and the implications for those who wished to join in the CL challenge.
He argued that the social field became congested and this led to turbulence, more
competition and the emergence of new drug dealing groups.
In his introduction Harding gives details of his research that took place over 2
years in London and the South-East of England: 136 respondents, including
police, CL operators, drug users and others. This included 37 interviews with
stakeholders and 36 interviews with respondents involved in CL. The (all White)
18 police informants are from chief superintendent to PCs. His CL informants
range from ex-managers to current operatives, including those described as run-
ners/dealers. Most are African-Caribbean (1 female out of 13), with 2 African, 3
White (1 female), 1 Eastern European and 2 mixed parentage. The 12 (heroin/
crack) users are all White. He interviewed 16 stakeholders, both local authority
and substance misuse workers.
He conducted seven focus groups within schools and with a local councillors’
forum. He steeped himself in the area he investigated and detailed an extensive
amount of participant observation. He commented that he was seen differently ‘after
stepping out of a police car’ but he felt that this was necessary for safety reasons and
led to access to some diverse CL participants.
In Chapter 1, A Changed Landscape, Harding develops his notion of the social
field with USGs, in particular, the way that young men build relationships to pro-
duce, reproduce and transform their social field drawing on individual and col-
lective actions. The CL is a business enterprise. Chapter 2, Emergence and Change,
describes the evolution of CLs, from the home area to what he calls a Satellite Hub,
458 Probation Journal 67(4)

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT