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30% rise in young people involved in drug crime in Thames Valley

Drugs / Marijuana

Published by Dan Gooding at 5:40am 8th February 2019.

There are more children being arrested for drug offences in the Thames Valley - 200 in the latest yearly stats.

The 30% rise on 2017 is being blamed on county lines crime, where young people are being used to traffic drugs.

It is something our police force have been focusing on.

Aylesbury Superintendent Tim Metcalfe told us what we should look out for:

"Young children perhaps looking a bit nervous, looking out of place, unfamiliar with their surroundings.

"For parents, any changes in behaviour, any quite high-value items making their way into children's hands or, indeed, large sums of money."

Offences on the rise

Backpack / rucksack
Young people are often used to bring drugs into the area on trains or buses

There were 200 drug offences committed by children aged between 10 and 17 in the Thames Valley police force area in the 12 months to March 2018, Ministry of Justice figures show.

This was a 30% increase from the previous year when there were 154.

Drug offences among children in the Thames Valley police force area had previously fallen year on year since 2013-14, the earliest period with available data.

Across England and Wales, the number of drug offences committed by children rose by 2.5% last year to 5,965 - the first increase for ten years.

Only proven offences are counted, when a child receives a caution or sentence for the crime.

Not all crimes committed by children will lead to a formal outcome, meaning the actual number of crimes could be higher.

Some may be dealt with informally, such as being given a community resolution or referral to a Youth Offending Team for advice about their behaviour.

The Children's Society says gangs often target and exploit vulnerable children, such as those living in poverty or in care, to act as drug mules.

It is important that such children are supported as victims rather than criminalised, they added.

Iryna Pona, policy and research manager for the charity, said the increase in child exploitation could be behind the rise in convinctions and cautions.

"After being groomed through promises of cash, drugs and a glamorous lifestyle, children are then terrified into following orders and carrying out drug-related crimes.

"We have sadly supported children who have been stabbed, raped and tortured, with their activities monitored through mobile phone live streaming and tracking.

"We want police to recognise that in many cases young people haven’t made a choice to get involved in gangs - they have been groomed and coerced in the same way as we have seen young people groomed and coerced into sexual exploitation."

The National Crime Agency estimates around 10,000 children as young as 11 years old are now being used as drug mules for county lines gangs.

The gangs use dedicated mobile phone lines to take orders and move drugs across their networks.

TVP County Lines - BTP
TVP have been out tackling County Lines crimes

A new report by the NCA revealed there are now 2,000 such phone lines across the UK - up from 720 a year ago - facilitating around 1,000 unique drug trafficking routes.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Duncan Ball, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for county lines, said:

"Police forces across the UK are working together to dismantle these networks and protect the young and vulnerable people who are exploited by them.

“The work of the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre has resulted in more arrests and large amounts of drugs and weapons taken off our streets.

"We will continue to do all we can to pursue and prosecute those who commit violence and exploit the vulnerable.”

Drug offences made up 9% of all proven child offences in the Thames Valley police force area last year.

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