Right now in our communities children, young people and vulnerable adults are being manipulated, sexually abused and forced to launder money and deal drugs, as part of County Lines criminal activity.
Exploitation isn’t obvious. There isn’t a “type” of child or young person who gets involved. This type of abuse can happen everywhere to anyone. In Avon and Somerset, we are aware of children as young as eight years old becoming victims.
Young people are targeted at fast food outlets, shopping centres and parks. They are forced to travel on trains, buses, coaches and use roadside services for rest stops. Exploitation can also happen ‘behind closed doors’ in hotels, salons, car washes. Or online through gaming platforms and social media.
We need your help to make it stop
We’re supporting The Children’s Society’s #LookCloser campaign, asking everyone to learn how to spot and report signs of child exploitation. By knowing the signs we can, together, get those involved to safety.
Thinking of children and young people you know, ask yourself:
- Have their habits or behaviours changed?
- Are they more anxious, frightened, or angry on a more regular basis?
- Are they spending time with new or older people?
- Have they recently acquired new items, such as a new phone or trainers?
- Do they seem to have more cash, clothes, jewellery or mobile phones?
- Are they receiving an excessive number of texts or phone calls?
- Are they regularly going missing from school or home?
- Are they being secretive about who they are talking to or where they are going?
- Are they coming home looking dishevelled or with unexplained injuries?
When travelling, look out for children and young people and ask yourself if they are:
- Travelling alone, particularly in school hours, late at night or frequently?
- Looking lost or in unfamiliar surroundings?
- Anxious, frightened, angry or displaying other worrying behaviours?
- Carrying lots of cash or potentially being under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
- Being instructed or controlled by another individual?
If you work in certain industries – including banking, delivery services, hotels, rented accommodation, holiday parks, public transport, taxis or retail – there are further specific signs of exploitation you can look out for.
If something doesn’t feel right, don’t wait – report it
✅ Call police on 101 – or 999 in an emergency including if someone is in immediate danger
✅Text British Transport Police on 61016 if you are on a train
✅Call CrimeStoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111
✅Call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.
Our lead for Serious Violence and County Lines, Detective Superintendent James Raphael, said: “Every day of the year our officers and staff are working to protect our communities from those intent on profiting from illegal drug supply and exploiting vulnerable people. We are dedicated to bringing those responsible for violence and exploitation to justice and will use all avenues available to us.
“Going hand in hand with this important enforcement work is the work we do everyday of safeguarding vulnerable people who find themselves caught up in the misery of drug use and/or supply, through no fault of their own. Across Avon and Somerset we work with a number of different partner agencies to help these people to access treatment and support. We also carry out educational and diversionary initiatives with schools, youth organisations and our Violence Reduction Units to ensure that young people are aware of the signs of grooming and exploitation and how to get help if they need it.
“We thank our communities for their support in spotting the signs and reporting exploitation. Working together, we are sending a clear message to organised criminals and those who cause harm in our communities, that there is absolutely no place for them here”.