A new campaign has been launched to tackle the drugs gangs who exploit vulnerable children and young people in North Wales.
Criminal gangs from major cities like Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London have extended their drugs networks to the region as part of the emerging threat of “County Lines”.
The charity Crimestoppers and the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones came together to launch the campaign at the Kaleidoscope Project in Wrexham.
The campaign coincides with National Safeguarding Week (12-16 November), with this year’s theme focusing on exploitation.
They say young people are being coerced, groomed and threatened with violence to take part in illegal activity across the region. Many of them feel they have no choice and struggle to find a way to escape from the hurt and harm they endure on a daily basis.
The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness about County Lines, support young people through a range of partners in the community and encourage the public to speak up if they have any suspicions or information about County Lines.
Whilst the charity Crimestoppers will handle information given to them 100 per cent anonymously, there will also be activity by police across the region to disrupt and arrest those who are involved.
Arfon Jones said: “I am pleased to support this important new campaign to highlight the menace of the criminal gangs seeking to exploit children in their despicable activities as they seek new territories for their drug dealing networks.
“They exploit children and young people by coercing them into running Class A drugs, cash or weapons, not just here in North Wales but across the UK. Getting to grips with this growing menace is one of my top priorities.”
Gary Murray, North West Regional Manager for the charity Crimestoppers, said: “The exploitation of children and young people by these gangs is truly worrying. The victims are often too young and too troubled to be able to realise what is happening to them.
“Crimestoppers believes everyone has the right to feel safe from crime and we need your help to protect children and young people from exploitation. We won’t ask your name. Won’t judge. Just listen to what you know. When you hang up the phone or click `send’, you’re done. In over 30 years, our charity has always kept its promise that everyone who contacts us stays 100% anonymous. Always.”
Martin Blakebrough, CEO Kaleidoscope, Drug Addiction Treatment Centre, said:
“County Lines threatens the wellbeing of our children, we have a duty to do all we can to protect them. We also need to be aware the drugs they are forced to deal cause great harm to vulnerable adults and the communities they live in. ”
If you have any information about those exploiting children and young people, Crimestoppers charity is here to help. Call our UK Contact Centre anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use our non-traceable online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.