This summer I was alerted to the phenomenon of ‘county lines’ where missing children from cities are used to set up new drugs markets in provincial towns.
This is another example of how some of our most vulnerable children and young people fall into terrible danger when they go missing from home or care. We all know about the link between missing children and sexual exploitation but the latest research, unveiled at a conference I chaired last month, revealed the danger from gangs.
They use missing young people to ferry drugs to a new area, sometimes setting them up in accommodation to deal drugs for a period of time.
The children have their phones taken off them so that they are completely isolated in an alien area.
One boy was missing for over a week. He said: “Majority of the time I was by myself, the main guy I worked for, he used to come in the morning, first thing, seven,to come and wake me up. He used to come in at 12 at night, collect the money, give me the fresh stuff,that would be it.”
As with child sexual exploitation, we should all keep our eyes open as a community for any child or young person who might be being used in this way.