Crime-fighting charity bids for help in ending '˜evil' exploitation of children

CHILDREN forced to peddle drugs for vicious dealers could be saved if people are trained to spot the signs of exploitation, a crime-fighting charity has warned.

Wednesday, 25th July 2018, 9:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th July 2018, 9:54 pm

Crimestoppers has launched a major bid to tackle county lines '“ an illicit drugs business model that sees dealers from major cities establish networks in smaller cities and target addicts.

Children as young as 12 have been enlisted in Portsmouth in such operations and used to sell the heroin and crack cocaine dealers are selling.

As reported last week, DCI Nick Heelan has taken over the running of the drug-related harm team in Portsmouth, branding dealers who exploit youngsters as '˜evil'.

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Emily van der Lely, Crimestoppers lead on county lines, said: '˜We know that the term county lines might not be widely recognised, which is why we are launching this campaign and asking for your help to support us in tackling this issue.

'˜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.'

Signs include a child spotted out and about during school hours or late at night, a child unfamiliar with the area, or a child avoiding police.

Indications of an address being taken over by drug dealers include suspicious vehicles, people calling at the home often and not seeing the vulnerable person who lives there very often.

Itinerant drug dealers use children from their own area and enlist them from the target market area '“ often inflicting vicious attacks on those who try to back out or lose drugs or cash.

Addicts or other vulnerable people are targeted as dealers take over their homes as temporary bases.

Hampshire police and crime commissioner Michael Lane said: '˜I am a strong supporter of Crimestoppers.

'˜I am pleased that their latest campaign represents the changing nature of crime and the blight on our communities caused by criminals preying on the vulnerable in what has become widely known as a county lines approach. 

'˜I support any initiative that seeks to reduce crime protect the vulnerable and keep our communities safer.'

Anyone can report information to police on 101 or to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, or on the Crimestoppers website.