Drug dealing in the UK has been an ongoing issue for many years. As drug dealers upgrade their strategies to move drugs in and out of the country and within the country, the authorities (such as the police) have also upgraded their methods to pin down criminals.
Despite the upgrade in technology and strategies by authorities, dealers have become much more advance and creative in their thinking to ensure minimal disputation to their operations by police and other governing authorities.
According to Children Society, “children as young as 7 are being put in danger by criminals who are taking advantage of how innocent and inexperienced these young people are”. Gangs are exploiting children and vulnerable people by using them as couriers to move their drugs across counties, new markets and urban hubs with the use of mobile phone line to supply. This criminal exploitation is also known as “County Lines”.
Drug dealers are targeting vulnerable children. They are targeting children affected by learning difficulties, those facing challenges at school and home and those living in care to carry out drug operations. The children are trapped in such operation through promises of protection, money and friendships. Sadly the reality is far from this as they are often threatened, abused and traumatised – making it difficult for them to report this crime to the police and other authorities.
At present, there is no evidence to show how many children have been exploited into county line operations (which is one of the main challenges faced by authorities to date). Children are often not considered when dealing with criminal operations due to their innocence and the nature of drug operations – this is a contributing factor to the reason why drug dealers take advantage of them.
Gang and drug activity increases in areas of social deprivation / disadvantages and high crime. Many people from BAME communities are living in areas of deprivation which increases exploitation of BME children for county line operations.
Though there have not yet been any reports to highlight the statistics of how many children from BAME communities have been exploited into county line operations, solid analyses based on history and social disadvantage alone confirms that BAME children will be targets for drug operations.
The media has been known for and “criticised for its disproportionate representation and sensationalising of BME involvement in drug markets”. It is no secret the “over-representation of BME groups in policing of cannabis and other drugs may stem partly from the high proportion of BME groups living in areas of social disadvantage and high crime. Subsequently, it is very important to be aware of the signs to look for, if we are to protect our children from exploitation for county line operations.
What are the signs to look out for?
- Coming home late with injuries
- Unexplained items such as money, clothing, mobile phones etc
- Being fund in areas away from their homes
- Going missing
- Using explicit sexualised and drug related language – normally different from how they talk
- Increase in disruptive behaviour
- Having keys unknown places
- Increased drug use.
Children’s innocence should not be taken away from them, they should not be abused, exploited or traumatised. As a community, were are responsible for one another and our children. If you suspect that a child is being exploited please call 999 in the case of an emergency. For non-urgent concerns, you can call crime stoppers on 0800 555 111.