Keeping children safe is everyone’s responsibility, hears county lines meeting

Category: Community 51

Havering parents have heard about the harsh realities of county lines and the exploitation of vulnerable people at a special training evening in Harold Hill.

The session, at the myplace Community Centre, provided vital information to help professionals and parents to be aware of how children and young people are being lured into gangs.

The meeting heard that it is everyone’s responsibility to help tackle the exploitation of vulnerable people in Havering.

County lines involves an individual or group crossing a police force boundary to set up day-to-day drug dealing, using vulnerable people to help run the operation.

The workshop was one of several being held across the borough, especially in schools to help parents, teachers and other professionals, to be aware of the signs of exploitation.

Four schools have so far been involved in the workshop and a further 15 sessions are scheduled across the borough in the coming weeks.

Led by Peter Wilson, from the Met Police’s Trident unit, the audience heard that some of the signs to look out for include:

• distrust of authority figures
• unexplained gifts or money
• involvement with gangs and older age groups
• alcohol and drug misuse
• problems at home and absence from home and their familiar surroundings
• sexualised behaviour.

Mr Wilson said it is something that affects both the young and the old.

He said: “Urban gangs befriend weak, old and vulnerable adults in rural areas before taking control of their premises to use as a base, while young people are showered with cash and gifts, the promise of easy money and respect within the gang, however, both are then ruled with fear and intimidation, and in some cases torture.”

Councillor Viddy Persaud, Havering’s Cabinet member for Public Protection and Safety, said:

“Knowing the signs and symptoms of exploitation is crucial to knowing how to protect and keep our children and vulnerable people safe. The information provided during these sessions is vital if we’re to steer young people away from a life of crime and into a more meaningful way of life.

The Council is developing a strategy, in partnership with other agencies and the community, to help spot the early signs of children and young people who are vulnerable to exploitation, in order to offer them support.

Street Pastor John Smailes, who is part of a team that offers support to people taking part in Havering’s night time economy, added:

“Every parent should know about this because it’s so important. It was staggering to know that children are being manipulated in this way and parents should be warned.”

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