Around 300 pupils and 30 teaching professionals from across Plymouth took part in a pilot programme to raise awareness about ‘County Lines’ child criminal and drug exploitation.
Over two days, the pupils from years nine and ten attended performances of a play at the Devonport Guildhall, performed by Alter Ego Creative Solutions. The events were organised by Plymouth Safeguarding Children’s Board in conjunction with Devon and Cornwall Police.
County Lines refers to the criminal exploitation of children, often as young as 12, who are exploited by organised crime networks to sell drugs. They are often made to travel across counties, and they use dedicated mobile phone ‘lines’ to sell drugs.
Andy Bickley, Independent Chair of Plymouth Safeguarding Children’s Board, said: “We were pleased to welcome Alter Ego to Plymouth to help us in our vital work to educate local children and young people about the dangers of drugs and child exploitation.
“The aim of the productions was to raise awareness of what County Lines is and how it can affect young people, the grooming process and how it can apply to County Lines, the crossover between child criminal exploitation (CCE) and child sexual exploitation (CSE), and perhaps most importantly, where to go for help and advice.
“As a Safeguarding Board we are committed to ensuring agencies provide opportunities to protect our local children and young people, and finding new and innovative ways of doing this. This is initially a pilot so depending on the feedback we get from those taking part, we may look at rolling it out across the city.”
Detective Inspector Paul Weymouth said: “I was blown away by the enthusiasm of these wonderful and believable actors who brought the issues of what ‘county line’ drug dealers can pose to children and other vulnerable people to life, in a way that literature or a formal presentation could not. There has been a genuine impact from their message delivered to both the safeguarding professionals in March, and over the last two days to just a small sample of our school population.
These presentations by Alter Ego were funded solely by assets seized from criminals during Police led interventions against drug dealing activities within Plymouth over the last 12 months.
The primary function and responsibility of the Police and our partners is to safeguard the most vulnerable people within our society. Therefore if anyone has any information around ‘County Lines’ drug dealing or other drug dealing activities please do not hesitate to contact the Police directly or through Crime Stoppers with that information reassured that that the information will be treated in the strictest confidence. The information can also be reported through our partners who have a dedicated method for communicating the information on behalf of those who are unable to or do not have the confidence to do it themselves.”
Devon and Cornwall Police website: https://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/advice/threat-assault-abuse/county-lines/
Together for Childhood: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/our-services/together-for-childhood/