Campaign highlights dangers of young people in Lincolnshire being groomed by drugs gangs
Crimestoppers has launched a campaign in Lincolnshire to highlight the dangers of young people being groomed and becoming involved in County Lines.
The charity is offering ways to help people identify those who are at risk of being groomed into a life of drug dealing, along with the associated physical and sexual violence.
The eight-week campaign highlights how organised criminal gangs target young people to find out their vulnerabilities. A lifestyle is then sold to them before their loyalty is tested, often through asking for favours and offering a sense of protection, which can then lead to those exploited being trapped through debt bondage, trafficking, isolation from family and friends and physical, psychological and sexual abuse.
Lincolnshire Police alongside West Midlands Police were the first to imprison a drug dealer in October 2018 for 14 years under the Modern Slavery Act for trafficking children.
The dealer trafficked teenagers who were reported as missing from Birmingham to rural Lincolnshire to sell heroin and crack cocaine through his ‘county lines’ drugs network. The boys, aged 14 and 15, were befriended by the dealer. They were found in squalid living conditions in a flat with no heating or food.
Only last week, two brothers were jailed for running a county lines operation, selling cocaine in Lincolnshire and the wider region.
Any suspicions about organised drug gangs and victims can be reported to Crimestoppers anonymously by calling freephone 0800 555 111 at any time or by completing a secure online form at Crimestoppers-uk.org or Fearless.org for young people, where more can also be learnt about the warning signs of County Lines activity.
Fearless.org offers young people non-judgemental advice so they can make informed decisions about lifestyle choices and realise that they have an alternative option when reporting crime.
The campaign’s timing is particularly important as potentially more young people risk being exploited with the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Lydia Patsalides, East Midlands regional manager at Crimestoppers, said: “With schools thankfully back open and the ‘stay at home’ message changing and the re-opening of retail and hospitality, it’s great for the country and the economy, but it does come with more opportunities for young people to be exploited and organised crime gangs to take advantage.
“We are asking people to remain vigilant to the signs of grooming and the three grooming stages of targeting, testing and trapping. We are also appealing to everyone to help protect vulnerable members in our community from County Lines activity by telling us anonymously what you know.
“Crime information can be passed to Crimestoppers at any time by calling our freephone number 0800 555 111 or by completing a safe and secure anonymous online from at Crimestoppers-uk.org. Young people can also give information via Fearless.org 100 per cent anonymously without fear of any repercussions. Our charity has always kept its promise of anonymity to everyone who contacts us.”