Drugs gangs warn­ing

The Chronicle - - News -

ALL chil­dren and young peo­ple are po­ten­tial tar­gets for ‘county lines’ drugs gangs, Sun­der­land’s chil­dren’s ser­vices boss has warned.

Speaking to coun­cil­lors last week, Jill Col­bert, who was ap­pointed to run the trou­bled ser­vice ear­lier this year, warned it isn’t just those al­ready con­sid­ered ‘vul­ner­a­ble’ who are at risk.

It is es­ti­mated as many as 46,000 chil­dren across the coun­try could have been forced to take part in the so-called ‘county lines’ drug trade.

“We have very vul­ner­a­ble young peo­ple who could be ex­ploited by crim­i­nals and they’re the same young peo­ple who could be vul­ner­a­ble to child sex­ual ex­ploita­tion,” Col­bert told Sun­der­land City Coun­cil’s Chil­dren, Ed­u­ca­tion and Skills Scru­tiny Com­mit­tee. We shouldn’t see county lines as dif­fer­ent to any other safe­guard­ing ac­tiv­ity.”

She added: “This is a very big is­sue, this is a threat to the safety of young peo­ple in Sun­der­land. In my ex­pe­ri­ence [of pre­vi­ously work­ing in Manch­ester], these were young peo­ple not known to so­cial ser­vices and with­out pre-ex­ist­ing so­cial dif­fi­cul­ties.”

‘County lines’ is the term given to drug deal­ing by crim­i­nal gangs in small towns and ru­ral ar­eas across the UK.

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