A NATIONAL campaign has been relaunched in Sussex to raise awareness of drug dealing.
The initiative by Crimestoppers is intended to raise awareness about county lines and encourage the public to report their concerns about drugs being imported into their area.
County lines refers to gangs and organised criminal networks which export illegal drugs to suburban, rural and coastal areas by using dedicated mobile phone lines or ‘deal lines’.
The gangs exploit children and vulnerable adults to move drugs and money. They move into the rural or suburban area for a short time by taking over the home of a vulnerable person to use as their base.
Many have taken advantage or have been forced to carry out criminal activity by threats, grooming and extortion to be described as modern day slaves.
Glenys Balchin, the Surrey and Sussex regional manager for Crimestoppers, said: “We know that the term county lines might not be widely recognised, which is why we are launching this campaign and asking for people’s help to support us in tackling this issue. We need help to put a stop to this exploitation and the damage that these criminals are inflicting on our communities and those being taken advantage of.
“We are asking people to contact us anonymously through our 0800 555 11 number, or via our secure online form at Crimestoppers-uk.org – both methods are 100 per cent anonymous – always. Together, we can put a stop to this.”
Telltale signs of a county line in operation can be a child or young person, sometimes aged only 12, during school hours or unusual hours in a shopping centre, high street or on public transport or a child or young person unfamiliar with an area.
More people calling at an address than usual and sometimes at unsociable hours could be another indication along with suspicious vehicles or people at an address or a neighbour who has not been seen for a while.
Crimestoppers is working closely with the Home Office, which is running a campaign to target staff who may encounter young people who are being exploited by the practice of county lines.
They are employees in the transport, private security and accommodation sector. They are being provided with materials such as posters, guidance booklets about how to identifty a young people possibly being exploited and how to safeguard that young person.