Southend and Basildon have been drawing in some of the largest amounts of young drug traffickers from London gangs and a new report from London City Hall shows the extent and nature of county lines activity that has been going on in the metropolis, and it reveals that between January 2018 and April 2019, 121 people were referred to the City Hall funded Rescue and Response programme and that had ties to Essex.
That’s more than any other county in the United Kingdom besides Norfolk where there were 416 links and Hampshire with 369. This included 36 from Southend and 30 from Basildon.
The programme aims to provide help to young people in London involved in county lines gangs. County lines refer to gangs forcing vulnerable individuals, including kids as young as 11 years old into trafficking drugs from big municipalities to provincial regions.
The trouble and misery caused by drug gangs, knife crime and county lines operations are growing in Essex and Essex Police has its own team, “Operation Raptor”, which operates specifically to stop drug-related violations in the county.
And Martin Terry, cabinet member for community safety and customer contact at Southend Council stated that county lines drug dealing was their number one focus.
This kind of activity is absolutely terrifying and it destroys people’s lives and produces a lot of crime behind it and it frequently picks on defenceless people but this figure comes as no shock whatsoever and what’s happening in Southend is happening as a consequence of under-resourcing of the police.
There are the knife arches that have been put up in town resulting in some seizures and it does appear to be the police’s number one focus and it does look like the police are doing all that they can but they’re continually striving to find ways of getting resources for Southend.
The resources have to go where the crime is and some £5000,000 of additional funding has been designated to tackle so-called county lines gangs from Essex County Council.
Sadly, county lines drugs gangs are a real and immediate threat to neighbourhoods up and down the county but much more needs to be done to prevent kids from getting ensnared by drugs gangs.
But what we actually need is to get this problem nipped in the bud once and for all but the principal problem here is policing numbers and even though they want to prevent the problem, the police are only responding when the crime has already happened.
By the time the teenagers are found and arrested, they’ve already perpetrated these terrible wrongs and their lives are transformed forever and there have been a number of complaints from residents who see drug dealing from car windows and youngsters on pushbikes coming up and taking the deliveries and of course, the police want to be there, but they simply don’t have the resources.
But the courts also need to support the police because we now need more than ever a zero-tolerance approach to these fungi that vend these drugs.
There’s an increasing number of dealers in Southend and their very presence is increasing the size of the market, but what’s more frustrating is that you can see drug dealing activity happening brazenly on the streets.
The police ask the public to inform them of any drug dealing activity but it’s apparent that if a member of the public reported an activity it would have no effect as the dealer would be long gone before the police would even arrive and there’s nothing in place to hinder the dealers.
I know that I’d like my taxes to be used on police resources, rather than being spent on people in power but I believe the problem we need to be dealing with is to quit questioning why people do drugs in the first place.
And just because drugs are something people choose to do, doesn’t suggest that there are thousands of people who do drugs on an everyday basis, but there are people who do enjoy taking drugs.
I have no interest in skydiving or bungee jumping but there are some people out there that do, but this kind of adventure also brings risk, the same goes for motor racing, skiing, snowboarding, horse riding and mountain climbing.
Of course, they all carry risks and people have died or been badly injured due to all these pastimes, yet their pastimes are socially acceptable but then I guess adults should be able to decide what they want to do with their own bodies without being punished for it but it is time these dealers were taken off the streets.
We could actually respect people’s choices for what they do, but when it’s the relative of a 14-year old who’s been raped and exploited, then that’s different and what an adult does is down to them but some youngsters don’t get that choice.
The simple truth is that you can’t prevent this as long as there is a demand for them, they will come and it doesn’t matter how much you educate, people will still do what they want to do. What’s actually needed is a new approach to lessen the risk of harm to those who participate, rather than demonising their personal choices, leaving them more open to harm.
Children as young as 12 years old in most regions of the country are being detained for dealing Class A drugs, including crack, heroin and cocaine and it was reported that in 2016, 71 per cent of police forces had arrested children under the age of 16 on suspicion of supplying crack, heroin or cocaine.
And when all types of Class A substances were examined, the proportion of authorities arresting under 16s for hard drug dealing increased to 86 per cent. Further investigations provided suggestions that children as young as eight were being engulfed into a life of drug dealing where gangs use pain as a method of asserting their authority, knives, Tasers, boiling water and acid as weapons.
And it’s been said that London schoolchildren are being sent to deal from crackhouses as far away as Scotland, with the girls sometimes being raped and controlled by male gang members.
By the age of 14, some child drug dealers are already seasoned, they’ve done lots of things, sold lots of drugs and been in lots of traumatising situations and in Nottingham, a former teenage drug dealer talked of facing junkies wielding Rambo knives, and becoming so used to violence that one of them saw punishment beatings as merely business.
The concern is that this might be the next child exploitation scandal. There is also raised concerns about drug gangs exploiting minors who go missing from home or care and the government have called for such children to be treated as victims of grooming rather than criminals.
Patterns of grooming of children for criminal exploitation are quite similar to those of sexual exploitation and in the past, child sexual exploitation was usually regarded amongst professionals as the victim’s fault due to their precarious behaviour.
And vulnerable young people who are trafficked and exploited by gangs to deal drugs are still too often seen to have made a choice and are therefore criminalised rather than safeguarded and recognised as victims of the gangs who control them.
And the prevention of children being groomed and exploited in this context should be seen as a top priority for local and national decision-makers and whereas before the substances peddled by child pushers might have been soft drugs like cannabis, violent criminal gangs are now enticing young and younger children into dealing harder and harder drugs.
Reported incidents included a 13-year-old boy detained on suspicion of supplying crack and heroin in Norwich, a suspected 13-year-old heroin dealer in South Yorkshire, and a 13-year-old suspected cocaine dealer in the West Midlands, Lancashire and Kent.
The youngest child involved a 12-year-old boy, arrested in Dorset for possession of a Class A drug with the intention to supply but the police didn’t recover any controlled substances, so the boy was not charged, but was given advise and outside the Class A category, Humberside Police reported that they’d got an anonymous tip-off that a nine-year-old girl was supplying cannabis.
Detectives were unable to confirm the allegation, but the suggestion that dealers were now so young was reverberated by the charity and gang-intervention workers, who confessed to being alarmed at the extreme youth of some of the children concerned.
It begins as low as 8 years old, moving drugs on the street, a small package from outside the fast-food restaurant to drop off somewhere else and if that child loses that package, he will get beaten for it losing it and if he gets caught on another gang’s territory, they will beat him for being on their turf and take the package and then that child goes back to his gang and gets beaten up for getting beaten up.
There’s no decency, no scruples, no compassion and it’s a destructive vicious cycle and just how vicious was suggested by Colin James, the founder of London based Gangs Unite.
Colin James, 47, was a former gang member who now works to stop young people from making the same mistakes he did.
He’d just been trying to help a 16-year-old girl, she’d been abused and she had connections to four gangs, but she was owned by a boy from each gang, so if someone was the senior member of the gang member and he liked the girl, he would claim her and say that she was his.
The girls submit that and they might be used as a mattress, but protection, and all of those things that are offered by the gang, they prefer that to their own value and self-worth and it’s horrific, but they really can’t see that.
The 16-year-old girl had been shipped all over the place and they once found her in Scotland but it’s quite a normal thing for young people who have gone missing for days. They send them up to crackhouses but sometimes the girls are up there for just sexual reasons, but 99.9 per cent of the time, it’s because they’re selling drugs.
And there are increasingly widespread gangland practices on county lines, with gangs in large urban cities extending into county towns by means of a deal line.
The mobile phone number is established from the urban base, while foot soldiers are shipped from the city or recruited in the county town.
Drug users in the county town phone the city-based deal line and then orders are given to the foot soldiers in the town, who deliver the crack, heroin or cocaine for the gangs and it helps if the foot soldiers are children who are cheap, expendable and easily controlled, with the added advantage of often being able to work under the police’s radar.
Some gangs solicit children without a criminal record. Others, target only white British children because they believe they’re less likely to be targeted by law enforcement and they put the children in cuckooed locations, usually crackhouses taken over by whatever force and coercion are needed.
And there are instances of firearms being kept visible at cuckooed addresses to scare victims, as well as drug users being grievously attacked or even abused as a display of power to other users and gangs and for children, it could mean that children are being recruited from within school where they end up in crackhouses somewhere in their school uniform, for days upon days, and promised loads of money that they never see.
It’s like a recruitment agency and when you think of these young people, it’s essentially like a business opportunity because children are drawn to trinkets, so they give them money and alcohol and they only need to recruit one child and once they’ve got that one child, they can do the recruiting for you, it’s like a domino effect.
And the artificial attraction and material wealth of a gangster is like attracting something shiny to a magpie and then they’re drawn into a lifestyle of no benefit to their soul.
These children are young and naive and they believe that the rewards will exceed the risks and even though they get frequent whippings, in the end, they believe that it’s simply business and they become child soldiers and become so accustomed to the violence that they simply accept it without question because the War on Drugs is big business.
And numerous children now are saying it’s easier for them to get class A drugs than alcohol, mind you, police cuts aren’t helping because police are almost non-existent on the streets now and as a result, people essentially do what they want unhindered.