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Drug dealing gangs and holidays

Drug dealing gangs will use the school holidays to recruit children to work for them, say police detectives. Parents are being warned about what to watch for, as organised crime groups target vulnerable people to become part of ‘county lines’ gangs.

County lines is the name of drug dealing where groups use phone lines to move and supply drugs, often from cities to smaller towns and rural areas. Cleveland Police reports cases of children as young as 13, groomed and exploited by gangs for county lines. There are several signs that may indicate someone is involved in county lines, say police:

– A child or young person regularly going missing from school or home, and being found in other areas.
– Unexplained money, new clothes or electronic devices that can’t be accounted for
– high numbers of texts or phone calls, and being secretive about who they’re speaking to
– Relationships with controlling or older individuals or associations with gangs
– Significant changes in emotional or physical wellbeing
– Suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries

Gangs will try and target young people online, over social media on apps such as Snapchat, Facebook, or Instagram, say police. Videos on websites such as YouTube and TikTok can glamourise criminal and gang life, police say. Parents are urged to set up parental controls and talk to their children about online safety.

Detective Inspector Dave Glass of Cleveland Police’s Complex Exploitation Team said: “These criminals will be relentless in their pursuit of vulnerable children, and what can seem like a dreamy existence to a young child, is actually a terrible nightmare that can impact their life forever.

“There are key signs that parents and carers need to be aware of, which can appear when a child has been groomed or exploited by drug gangs. The school holidays, when children or young people are most likely to be out of the house, or on their electronic devices more, runs an increase risk in them being targeted.

“We want people to call us with their concerns, as the children often won’t see themselves as victims and it’s important that we give them a voice and bring perpetrators to justice.”

Briefly, that new Complex Exploitation Team’s focus is working with partners to protect children and young people who may be being put into danger through criminal drug networks, or being exploited by people for criminal gain.

Separately, Crimestoppers has launched a campaign across Wales to keep young people safe from drugs and exploitation; through its Fearless youth arm, Fearless.org. Ella Rabaiotti, Crimestoppers Wales Manager said: “The stories we’re sharing this summer through our Fearless.org campaign show how criminals easily target and exploit vulnerable young people to move and deal drugs. It’s been a challenging year for young people and we want them to know we’re here for them if they have information about crime.”

And in North Wales, police in Flintshire are the first in Wales to carry a life-saving nasal spray which acts as an antidote to a drugs overdose, whether heroin, fentanyl or prescription painkillers. The six-month trial project uses the Naloxone spray. North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones is among volunteers to have been trained to administer it.

Anyone with concerns can call the non-emergency number 101, online via their local police force website or through the crime reporting charity line Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency, people should call 999. For online safety advice visit the NPCC website at https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/.


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