Children are targeted by county lines gangs to sell drugs and carry weapons. Children not even in their teens yet have been targeted in Bedfordshire.
They can be sent across the country to sell drugs, travelling by train, bus or taxi. These children may face extreme violence and intimidation as well as ‘debt bondage’, where gangs will arrange for the young runner to get robbed so they are in the gang’s debt. County lines gangs are typically associated with gangs from urban areas sending exploited children to more rural areas.
Here in Bedfordshire, we have issues with children and young people from London in particular being sent here to sell drugs. However, gangs based in the county are also grooming and exploiting young people who live here and sending them off to other areas.
While most child criminal exploitation victims are boys, girls are also targeted by these gangs to do things like hide weapons from the police. Any young person can be exploited, either in person or online. Gangs are specifically targeting so-called ‘clear skin’ children who do not have a criminal record, so they will not draw attention.
Signs to spot...
Child criminal exploitation
County lines gangs will target children to sell drugs and carry weapons. They can be sent across the country, travelling by train, bus or taxi.
Signs to spot:
Regularly going missing
Having expensive items like clothes, cash and trainers
Lots of different mobile phones
Relationships with older people
Phrases like 'going country', 'going crunch', 'trap house', 'plugging' and 'bando'
Lots of train and bus tickets
Child sexual exploitation
Children and young people can be sexually abused for money, power or status. They may receive things like drugs, alcohol and gifts in return for sexual activities, or be sexually exploited online.
Signs to spot:
Lots of phone or online messages they are secretive about
Regularly drinking and taking illegal drugs
Gifts they can't afford, such as clothes and jewellery
We’re urging parents to be alert to the dangers of cannabis edibles, with county lines gangs using the illegal sweets to entice children and then exploiting them.
What are cannabis edibles?
Cannabis edibles are cannabis-based confectionary that can often contain potent levels of mood-altering substances such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). They are often found in packaging designed to look like real sweets or chocolate, so it can be difficult to tell them apart at first glance.
They are illegal and anyone in possession of them risks arrest and prosecution under the Misuse of Drugs Act. They are also dangerous and can be stronger than many other cannabis products. We are concerned about the growing link between county drugs lines and cannabis edibles.
Children are not only being targeted as a new market, but are also being enticed with seemingly legal confectionary as a means of recruiting them into their ranks as couriers and dealers, who have no previous record and due to their age are more likely to go under the radar.
While the edibles may appear safe or fun, children may soon find themselves being exploited by the group, with the gangs using a range of grooming techniques to control the children and get them to carry out a wide criminal activity on their behalf.
We would encourage parents, carers and professionals who work with young people such as teachers to speak to the children and young people you know and download these great resources we have in Bedfordshire.
Developed by Mary Seacole Housing Association, TapOut is an interactive app for young people. Follow three characters as they navigate real-life decisions and issues including knife crime, drug use and criminal exploitation.
Is This Okay?
Is This Ok? is a free, anonymous, and confidential service, bringing trained professionals together to provide support to young people through a chat service. You don’t need to provide your real name (a nickname is fine for us!), and we don’t need to know your address.
Edibles Facts, Risks & Harm Minimisation
An edibles toolkit with guidance and information to support professionals working with children and young people.