One in five teenage boys or their friends have been offered work supplying drugs by county lines gangs who offer cash, phones and gaming tokens to children as young as 13
- British Transport Police today launches a ‘Don’t Take the Bait’ digital campaign
- The campaign highlights the tactics drug gangs use to coerce and exploit teens
Almost one in five teenage boys in the UK say they or their friends have been offered work by drug suppliers, according to new research.
A survey commissioned by British Transport Police (BTP) found that 19 per cent of boys aged between 13 and 19 have either been approached themselves or have peers who have been approached for work by drug dealers.
While more than a quarter (27 per cent) of those polled said they have seen illegal substances being offered or sold at school or on social media.
BTP revealed that gangs are now offering children as young as 13 money, mobile phones, gaming tokens, vapes and clothing in exchange for what they present as a ‘business opportunity’ to lure them into the drug trade.
Social media messages seen by the force show drug suppliers contacting teenagers asking the likes of ‘who wants to make £500 this weekend?’ and ‘who wants overtime?’.
BTP has today launched a ‘Don’t Take the Bait’ digital campaign, highlighting the tactics drug gangs use to coerce and exploit teens
BTP said its dedicated County Lines Taskforce routinely encounters young and vulnerable people on the railway who have been exploited by gangs to carry drugs between locations.
Since the Taskforce was setup with Home Office funding in late 2019, it has made 2,250 arrests and thousands of interventions – 115 of which were transferred into the national referral mechanism for safeguarding.
Of those arrested, 40 per cent have been under the age of 19, however only one in five (20 per cent) have been criminalised.
To counter suppliers’ attempts to groom children into the drug trade, BTP has today launched a ‘Don’t Take the Bait’ digital campaign, highlighting the tactics drug gangs use to coerce and exploit teens.
The force is urging parents to speak to their children about the tactics county lines gangs use to hook them into the drug trade.
Read more: Ruthless drugs gangs are ‘grooming’ youngsters, MPs are warned
Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams, BTP’s County Lines Taskforce lead, said: ‘It’s not uncommon for my dedicated teams to encounter children on the railway who are being exploited to traffic drugs.
‘Supported by safeguarding experts, a key priority of ours is to identify these victims and pull them out of harm’s way.
‘The youngest person we’ve found being exploited in county lines activity was a boy aged 13 – in that case the couple controlling him to courier drugs were jailed for over 12 years.
‘We’re relentless in our pursuit of these heartless human traffickers, and we are utilising modern slavery legislation to ensure they serve adequately lengthy jail terms.’
BTP has urged anyone with information about drug suppliers exploiting young people to contact the charity Fearless anonymously at fearless.org.
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