High school-aged children asked, “Who’s controlling your friends?” in new county lines campaign

October 8, 2019 by Leigh-on-sea.com

A campaign from Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has been launched to give children an understanding of how criminals operate, in their attempts to force children to run drugs and money in, out and around the borough.

A hard-hitting video will be shown at The Odeon, with complementary outdoor and social media material. It focuses on children being groomed by criminal gangs, who are then forced to move drugs and money in and out, and around the borough. It shows children how quickly these new “friends” can turn very nasty, and provides reassurance and support to anyone who has any information.

The campaign, run in partnership with Essex Police, will give young people support and a place to go should they have information they need to pass on. Children will be able to tell us any information they would like to, completely anonymously, via a website that won’t track their IP or any other information www.seethesigns.org.uk. All information received will be followed up by highly experienced professionals in the Children’s Services team at the council.

This is the third in a series of campaigns designed to help tackle the national issue of county lines. The first was created to inform parents of the signs to spot that their child could be being targeted by criminals. The second, in the lead up to the Christmas period last year, aimed to appeal to the consciences of recreational drug users and let them know their drug use directly resulted in local children being forced in to county lines activity.

Councillor Martin Terry, cabinet member for community safety said: “County lines is very much a national issue, and we in Southend see more of this activity than some other places in the UK due to our good transport links to London. However any county lines activity is too much, and our Children’s Services team is dedicated to putting a stop to these harms with a holistic approach. These professionals work above and beyond their roles on a daily basis, to help children who are in the grips of these criminals, and to prevent children identified as being at risk of being groomed in the first place. This campaign offers our young people reliable information, support, and a place to anonymously report anything they may know, as much or as little as they would like to share with us.

“I’d urge anyone who knows anything about this activity to please use the website and tell us. We can help. Our trained professionals are experienced in helping young people. We treat children as victims first, and just want to help get them out of these often violent and truly awful situations. You don’t need to leave your name, or any details, please tell us what you know so we can stop this happening to anyone else.”

Councillor Anne Jones, cabinet member for children said: “Children can worry about speaking to the police, social workers or other professionals, and live in fear as a result. We have created this campaign to highlight how quickly these criminals turn, from seeming new friends, to people who trap young people in violent situations. Children can be forced to commit acts of violence themselves, which then makes it even more difficult for them to report their situation.

“With this campaign we are firmly offering help to these children. We want to get you out of the grips of these criminals, so please go online and tell us anonymously anything you can. These criminals are not welcome in our borough, and we will not stop until we have protected all our children.”

 

Southend District Commander Chief Insp Neil Pudney said: “We know the gangs that prey on and exploit vulnerable young people will start off offering them gifts or incentives to entice them in.

“Before long those children will find themselves owing a debt to gang leaders and forced to pay that off by selling or couriering drugs and in some cases even perpetrating violence.

“The gang lifestyle is one with a very high price attached, you will end up perpetrating or the victim of violence, you may end up arrested and imprisoned, we want to stop that before it happens by showing young people the grim and nasty reality of what that lifestyle is really like.

“We would urge any young people who want help to get away from a gang and out of this lifestyle to visit this website and take the first step in getting help.”

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