Children as young as 12 risk becoming drug mules: Police warn that vulnerable youngsters are being enslaved by the ‘county lines’ menace

A campaign is aiming to warn how children as young as 12 get involved with crime
Authorities are concerned that children are used to transport drugs and money
County lines phenomenon involves urban gangs branching out from the city
By CHRIS GREENWOOD FOR THE DAILY MAIL

PUBLISHED: 19:12 EDT, 23 July 2018 | UPDATED: 19:26 EDT, 23 July 2018
Police are appealing for help rescuing vulnerable children enslaved by the ‘county lines’ drug menace.

A new campaign aims to raise awareness of how those as young as 12 get caught up in the criminal underworld.

The authorities are increasingly concerned that children are being used to transport drugs and money.
Authorities are concerned that children are used to transport drugs and money

The county lines phenomenon involves urban gangs branching out from their city strongholds to find lucrative new markets in smaller cities and towns.

Some youngsters are being forced to work as ‘mules’ by threats of violence against them and their families.

Crimestoppers is now urging anyone concerned for the safety of a child to contact it anonymously.

 

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Officials said warning signs could include seeing young people in shopping centres or on public transport or high streets during school hours.

Other signs could be young people seeming unfamiliar with an area, appearing to be intimidated by a controlling figure or deliberately avoiding police.

The charity said residents might also notice that a property is being used by drug dealers if it attracts frequent callers, often at antisocial hours.

Emily van der Lely, of Crimestoppers, said: ‘We know the term “county lines” might not be widely recognised, which is why we are launching this campaign.

‘We need help to put a stop to this exploitation and the damage that these criminals are inflicting on our communities and those being taken advantage of.’

As part of its campaign, Crimestoppers is sending advertising vans to some of the areas hardest hit by county lines networks. The charity is working closely with the Home Office, which is warning frontline staff to watch out for evidence of young people being exploited.

Big city gangs use a dedicated phone number – the so-called county line – to control the supply of drugs.

In many cases young footsoldiers are recruited to travel to new areas and sell drugs before returning with the profits.

The method is hugely profitable, with each phone number generating up to £3,000 a day in drug deal turnover.

 

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