Project helps protect children exploited to run drugs
We’ve teamed up with a charity to help West Midlands children we suspect are being exploited to run drugs across the country.
The partnership sees the St Giles Trust – whose services include helping people affected by County Lines – work with children and young people who’ve been discovered in vulnerable situations in other parts of the UK.
St Giles’ team includes people who’ve previously been targeted by criminal gangs and have first-hand experience of what exploited young people are going through.
In the last few weeks, 48 young people from the West Midlands – many of whom had been reported missing – have been rescued after being found in places as far afield as Bury, Merseyside and Scotland.
They have now been referred to St Giles for on-going support, alongside their families, in a bid to get their lives back on track.
And our detectives are using intelligence gleaned through the process to identify and arrest people running County Lines networks and using children to run drugs.
West Midlands Police’s lead for County Lines, Supt Rich Agar, said: “We’ve seen cases where vulnerable teenagers who’ve been reported missing have been found in suspicious circumstances many miles from the West Midlands.
“Recently children have been found in South Wales and other parts of the UK – and we believe they are being groomed to run drugs.
“Early intervention is really important to reach these children, offer them support and steer them away from crime and negative influences.
“Our St Giles partnership is doing just that. They have people with lived experience of what these young people are going through. They are well placed to guide these children to brighter futures – and help us gather vital intelligence against the drugs gangs.”
We recently played our part in a national week-long offensive (14-20 Sept) against county lines offenders that resulted in us executing almost 40 warrants and arresting 64 people.
We seized 225 wraps of cocaine and heroin, more than 1,000 cannabis plants, plus weapons including imitation handguns.
But our officers also gave lots of inputs at schools and spoke to teenagers in children’s homes in a bid to keep vulnerable teenagers safe from the clutches of drugs gangs.
Evan Jones, Head of Community Services at St Giles, added: “Many young people tell us they see no way out of county lines. Our staff are living proof positive change is possible.
“Funding we’ve had from the Home Office for this project will enable us to support hundreds of young people who are currently beyond our reach and end the misery and suffering they and their families are experiencing.
“Whilst the consequences of county line involvement can be severe, there is light at the end of the tunnel if the right support is in place.”