We must work together to protect our children from a cycle of crime

Angus Macpherson

Thursday 17 September 2020

For some time now, county lines and the impact it has on our young people has been an issue that has caused me concern.

Along with police forces nationally, we are continuing to see the devastating impact that drugs can have on individuals and communities, but perhaps the most concerning element of county lines is the wide-scale exploitation of young and vulnerable people and the destructive cycle many of them are becoming caught up in.

It is no doubt a huge concern for parents, guardians, teachers and of course young people themselves, to hear of incidents where county lines drugs gangs have exploited children, teenagers or vulnerable people into becoming involved in the supply of class A drugs. In these instances, threats of violence and weapons are commonplace and before long, these young people are caught up in a cycle of crime which seems impossible to escape.

It does not go unnoticed that covid-19 will have impacted on the support and education provisions available to many young people over recent months and with this lack of support, there is always a concern that vulnerable youngsters may become caught up in a world of criminality through the exploitation of these gang members.

I'd like to reassure you that some really positive work is being carried out within Wiltshire to tackle this. I'm really pleased that our Early Intervention Team, supported by PCSOs, are this week delivering presentations and communications to local schools and colleges to raise awareness of criminal exploitation. While we have been doing a lot of work to raise awareness of criminal exploitation across the county, it is crucial that we also engage with those very people who may find themselves targeted by drugs gangs. It is really important for me that these young people know the potential signs of county lines and the associated risks to help stop them from being drawn in by these drugs gangs in the first place. The Early Intervention Team have been carrying out some excellent work with partner agencies, in particular the education sector, so additional support can be put in place for these young people to keep them safe from harm.

We have two excellent Dedicated Crime Teams working in Swindon and elsewhere in the county who are achieving some fantastic results in the fight against county lines and I am confident that the work they are doing, alongside officers and staff from around the Force, continues to have a significant impact on the class A drug supply picture across Wiltshire and Swindon. I have personally joined the teams on some of their previous operations targeting county lines drugs gangs and I have been impressed by the absolute dedication, enthusiasm and commitment to identifying and putting offenders before the courts, and safeguarding the vulnerable.

This work will of course carry on and I will continue to show my support to a number of partner agencies such as Motiv8 and Turning Point, as the work they do with vulnerable young people and adults to help them break the cycle of drugs and ultimately county lines, is invaluable.