Gang activity doesn’t stop over summer
School’s out for summer and as restrictions relax and children have more free time it’s important for parents to remain interested and curious about where their children are and who they are hanging out with.
For County Lines gangs the summer holidays give the opportunity to recruit new children into their drug dealing network; children who can move about easily and freely in their community and who have the free time to do so.
This summer, the Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit, along with partners, are asking parents to ensure they know how to recognise the signs that their child might be involved in County Lines – the new, unexplained possessions, not just things like jewellery, trainers, and phones, but online commodities such as game currency or in game gifts which can suggest online exploitation; new ‘friends’ mentioned, children going out all day but being vague about their whereabouts, a change in behaviour – more secretive and distant.
Recent research by the Essex VVU shows that for 88% of young people across Essex someone always knows their whereabouts; 92% say being happy at home is important to them and 68% say their parents have the greatest influence on them. A generation of young Essex children who’s top four aspirations are to have good friends, be happy at home, do well at school and be happy at school.
This research suggests young people across the county want to do well and please those they care about. Parents should be encouraged that they can have conversations with their children about subjects like County Lines as they do play an influential role in their child’s life.
Around 80% of young people surveyed weren’t aware of County Lines taking place in their area which again opens up the space for conversations to ensure they, as well as their parents, know how to spot the signs and keep themselves and their friends safe.
Across Essex, Southend On Sea Borough Council, Essex County Council, Thurrock Council, Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and Essex Police are working hard this summer to clamp down on drug gangs and antisocial behaviour associated with drugs and violence. Using enforcement, education and intervention in hotspots across the County the message is clear that criminal activity won’t be tolerated in our County.
Using intelligence led policing Essex Police are carrying out proactive patrols, using stop and search powers to catch offenders, and to gather evidence to identify and arrest suspects. They are also targeting solo drug dealers, county lines gangs and organised crime groups, whose illegal businesses are closely associated with violence and weapon-carrying.
Detective Chief Inspector Lewis Basford, of the Essex Police Serious Violence Unit said: “There’s a strong link between drugs and weapon carrying, and people involved in this lifestyle put themselves at greater risk of being involved in violence,”
“We work closely with other organisations and charities to educate young people about the dangers and focus on diverting them away from lifestyles that put them at risk of being harmed.
“But we can’t do that alone. “It’s important that we all talk to our children about these issues and can spot the signs that they may need help to avoid being led down the wrong road.”
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex and Chair of the Violence and Vulnerability Round Table, said: “County Lines gangs befriend and groom young people, they make them believe they are all friends, but instead the gangs use them to carry drugs and cash around the county, trapping them in a world of debt and exploitation that can be difficult to escape. The Violence and Vulnerability Partnership is working together to help keep people at risk of exploitation by gangs to stay safe. At the same time we are continuing to crack down on the hardened criminals who prey on them, targeting individuals and entire gangs that operate in Essex.”
Parents can help play their part in ensuring a fun summer for all by understanding County Lines and supporting their children to stay safe over the holidays. Visit www.essexcountylines.co.uk for more information.