Major police and partnership effort to tackle county lines on child exploitation awareness day
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Drugs, weapons and burner phones were seized by police last week during an operation to tackle county lines drug dealing and child exploitation across the county.
Bedfordshire Police officers were involved in a week-long operation targeting the phone lines used to sell drugs across the county and apprehend those behind them.
Publication of the results from last week’s enforcement coincides with today’s (Friday) national child exploitation awareness day – and the start of a major #EndChildExploitation campaign by local police and a range of partner agencies.
Over the next two weeks work will be happening in schools, with parents, out in communities and online in a bid to raise awareness about cannabis edibles as well as apps to help and support young people.
Tackling the organised crime gangs driving this exploitation remains the key focus for policing, with a Bedfordshire county drugs line among 35 drugs lines dismantled across the region last week.
Police and partner agencies also carried out visits to suspected cuckooed premises in Bedfordshire.
This included Central Bedfordshire Council’s Safer Communities & Partnership Team, who spoke to dozens of residents in Biggleswade, Flitwick and Leighton Buzzard about county lines, giving information, advice and telling them how to report concerns.
The team’s response to cuckooing was also showcased as an example of best practice nationally.
Central Bedfordshire Council and the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) will be working together to raise awareness about the dangers of cannabis edibles, with concerns about growing links to these and county lines drugs supply. This includes online advertising, a toolkit and events aimed at professionals.
The VERU will be promoting two apps for young people in Bedfordshire who have concerns about being exploited: Is This Ok?, an anonymous chatbot for young people developed between the charities Missing People and Childline, as well as the Tap Out app, developed by the Mary Seacole housing association in Luton and the Luton Youth Offending Service to encourage young people to make positive choices.
All the different agencies involved will be appearing on community radio stations across the county and a Facebook Live webinar to raise awareness.
The VERU’s flagship Tree project patrols between police and youth workers will continue across Bedford and Central Bedfordshire.
Detective Inspector Tom Stean, from Bedfordshire Police’s intel team, said: “County drugs lines cause significant harm in our communities, not just for the users at the bottom of the chain but also for the string of other vulnerable and younger people who are exploited so that the organised criminals at the top maximise their profit without a thought of the destruction they’ve caused.
“The operational results are key to tackling the flow of drugs into Bedfordshire.
“However, our wider educational work with partners and communities across the county is equally as important.
“To truly tackle drug crime there needs to be a joined-up approach between a wide range of stakeholders to tackle the root cause of the problems, and that’s what we’re working towards.”
Lisa Robinson, manager of Bedfordshire VERU, said: “Child exploitation awareness day is an important occasion for us all to reflect on how we can safeguard young people and end child exploitation.
“Sadly, vulnerable children in our communities are being exploited. This might be through sexual abuse, online or by criminal gangs.
“We all need to work together to protect children and young people, tell different agencies what we know and together we can all make a difference to the lives of the next generation.”