Threat of County Lines drugs trade to be discussed on South Tyneside

Key work to protect vulnerable young people from County Lines drugs gangs is set to be discussed by South Tyneside councillors.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 2:50 pm
South Tyneside Council will receive a presentation on the threat of County Lines drugs gangs.

South Tyneside Council’s overview and scrutiny coordinating and call-in committee will receive a presentation on the organised drugs trade.

The County Lines trade is often carried out using dedicated mobile phone lines or other forms of “deal line”.

It is estimated that thousands of children across Britain could have been forced to transport and store drugs and cash after being drawn into the illicit criminal networks.

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According to a report prepared for borough councillors, gangs changed tactics during Covid-19 with their victims “getting even younger”.

This included the use of social media to groom children, young people and vulnerable adults as education moved online during the pandemic.

Safeguarding experts say a wider range of children are also being exploited, including more affluent victims and female victims.

Although there is no evidence of County Lines in South Tyneside at present, proactive multi-agency work is taking place to prevent it and safeguard residents.

This includes a Missing, Slavery, Exploitation and Trafficked Multi-Agency Subgroup, which is linked to the South Tyneside Safeguarding Children and Adults Partnership.

The group is responsible for ensuring the effectiveness of multi-agency working alongside providing learning and advice to support frontline workers responsible for young people at medium or high risk.

Examples of this work include gathering intelligence around the supply of drugs to young people in South Tyneside, targeting dealers and rolling out training packages to help keep children safe online.

Northumbria Police is also set to launch ‘exploitation hubs’ to share intelligence about cross-border cases alongside additional training supporting multi-agency staff to ‘spot the signs’ of County Lines.

A committee report prepared for councillors next week adds: “County Lines is [a] stark reality for a lot of children, young people and vulnerable adults.

“Fortunately, in South Tyneside there is no evidence of criminal gang activity that is associated with other parts of the country.

“However, no one is complacent in believing that exploitation is confined to particular areas or linked to a type of person or age group.”

South Tyneside councillors will receive a presentation on County Lines on Tuesday, November 16.

The meeting will take place at South Shields Town Hall from 10am and is open to the public.