Rising numbers of children are being trafficked from London and other cities and forced to distribute drugs by “county lines” gangs, a charity has warned.
The Children’s Society, based in Stratford, said it was seeing higher numbers of children being targeted, groomed and trafficked for criminal exploitation.
It has been handed £120,000 by the City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charitable funder, to provide support for victims. The most recent National Crime Agency report identified nearly 2,000 individual county lines “deal lines” controlled by criminal networks, with the largest number originating in London.
They involve children as young as 11 being forced to distribute drugs in other parts of the country. Helen Leadbitter, from The Children’s Society, said young people were groomed into exploitation with drugs and alcohol or promises of status and wealth and then controlled using threats, violence and sexual abuse.
Dhruv Patel, chairman of the Corporation’s City Bridge Trust committee, said its work with The Children’s Society “will make a real difference” to young people.