Drug dealers have turned corporate, selling their customer databases for as much as £150,000 ($183,000) as they adopt business strategies to maximize profits.
The savvy criminals have established a valuable market in client lists, and are also using product placement and branding, mimicking tactics used by legitimate firms.
The details contained in a new book highlight the intense competition between different groups who have turned to the business world tactics to give themselves a competitive advantage.
Some send out sample bags of drugs, special offers, 2-for-1 deals and limited offers, according to “ County Lines: Exploitation and Drug Dealing among Urban Street Gangs ,” which has been written by Dr. Simon Harding, associate professor in criminology at the Research Centre for Cybercrime and Security at the University of West London.
The phrase “county lines” is used where drugs are carried from one area to another, usually by children, over a boundary. The county line is the mobile phone line used to take the orders of drugs.
One member of an organized crime gang is quoted in the book as saying: “So, there’s a boy I know, he just sold his line…for something like £150,000 cash,” which was for a phone containing information about customers. Harding says the usual rate is estimated to be between £30,000 and £50,000.
The book, which is published by Bristol University Press, reveals the extensive criminal exploitation and control in the daily ‘grind’ to sell drugs. It draws upon interviews and case studies, giving a voice to users and dealers alongside Harding’s in-depth analysis of the techniques and relationships of gangs, youth violence and drugs.
Harding wrote that purchasing the phone of a drug dealer, which can contain the number of hundreds of existing customers, offers “faster routes to faster profits.”
“Phones of county lines can be sold/swapped for tens of thousands of pounds,” he wrote. “This is the equivalent of a company selling on a database of buyers. Acquiring such a line ensures the line, or a new owner, is up and operating instantaneously, without the need to create a new user database.”
In a chapter entitled “County lines as a business model,” Harding noted concepts emerging of product placement, branding, customer value, loyalty and satisfaction, pricing strategies and customer relations.