Last week, Hampshire Constabulary together with the British Transport Police coordinated a week of action against county lines drug dealing and the exploitation of vulnerable people, particularly children, associated with this criminal activity. This county clampdown was part of a nationwide operation taking place across train routes and stations from Plymouth to Aberdeen.
Thirty three arrests were made across Hampshire, including four arrests in Basingstoke.
MP Maria Miller said, ‘The results show the dedication of the local police force and British Transport Police in rooting out County Lines crime throughout Hampshire. County Lines gangs use Basingstoke, given its proximity to London, as a gateway to supply drugs to residents throughout Hampshire. The County Lines criminal model uses children as young as 13 or 14 to move drugs from London to residents in Hampshire.
“These Police operations identify and remove children from this type of criminal activity; they also help improve railway safety by making the rail network a more difficult place for criminal activity to take place. This clampdown has helped identify and safeguard 17 vulnerable children and adults who have been exploited by county lines criminals, giving them the help and support they need.
”People taking drugs are not only committing a crime themselves, they are criminalising thousands of children and young people to feed their drug habit be it cannabis or cocaine. Drug gangs prey on the most vulnerable children, often those who are in care or out of mainstream schools.
“This County Lines operation in Basingstoke shows this is no place for County Lines Gangs to operate. I hope this clampdown sends a strong message to anyone who takes drugs that their habit, in whatever form it takes, is wrecking the lives of children and young people.”
Neighbourhood Policing Teams met local residents during the week to share information about county lines drug dealing, to reassure residents about the action being taken, raise awareness of how children are brewing used by criminals to move drugs and how to spot signs of exploitation.
Hampshire Police have also been supporting and sharing BTP and The Children’s Society’s #LookCloser awareness campaign to encourage professionals and the public to ‘Look Closer’ for signs that a child may be at risk of criminal exploitation.
James Simmonds-Read at The Children’s Society said “It’s vital people look beyond the obvious because exploited children may not always appear upset or vulnerable or behave in the way we would expect victims to. We know trauma may cause them to appear angry or aggressive and they are often manipulated into thinking they are making a choice.”
“Through our Look Closer campaign, we are urging anyone who encounters children in their daily lives - from morning commuters and delivery drivers to hotel and shop staff – to report any concerns that a child might be being exploited to the police.”