Human-trafficking: We talk to Kent Detective Shaun White about the dangers of county lines in the UK

County Lines is a top priority for all police forces across the UK, especially to Detective Superintendent Shaun White, the head of County Lines and Gangs Team unit in Kent.

For those unaware, county lines is when someone from an urban area, sells drugs in a rural area. They do that through a mobile phone line and will send messages to users. It is often the case that drug gangs will target and exploit young and vulnerable people to transport and store these drugs across the UK.

When speaking to Detective Superintendent Shaun White about this issue, there has been a reduction in Kent, he said: “There are 46 county lines in Kent this year and last year there was 82. There has been a reduction in Kent and also a reduction in violence linked to county lines”.

(Image: Detective Superintendent Shaun White. Credit: Kent Police)

Despite a decrease in criminal activity linked to county lines in Kent, it is still a worrying issue for the force as young people still get drawn in.

Becoming involved with county lines can become extremely dangerous for young and vulnerable people to take part in. It can impact the young person’s physical, emotional and mental well-being. The worst-case scenario is that it can become fatal. Shaun shares how vulnerable and young people get recruited:

“This is a complex area. There’s no real science to this, it can be word of mouth and young people sometimes get trapped into thinking it is a glamorous lifestyle. Sometimes through social media, e.g., snapchat – they get asked to join and if they want £500, and young people get drawn into this”.

– Detective Superintendent Shaun White

Shaun shares some of the ways in which guardians can spot when they think their child may be drawn into county lines. The following are some of the signs that parents should look out for:

  • The child has unexplained wealth
  • Their social group changes
  • Have more than one phone
  • Become more reserved and more erratic
  • Leave and return home at unexplained times
  • Not being at home for days and returning dishevelled
  • Not communicating with their guardians

Kent police are employing a few different strategies to prevent young and vulnerable people from joining these gangs. Shaun said: “Well we know we can’t deal with the issue alone. We’re working with communities, charities and statutory partners e.g., social services”.

“We have developed short stories on YouTube to share with schools. We’re getting an influx of school officers to reach out to schools, parents and teachers to make those children aware of county lines”.

Shaun has made it very clear that they can’t do this alone, and that they reach out to the community to help them know how to prevent young people from being targeted.

Shaun shares his thoughts on how members of the public can help out when they spot something unusual. He said: “Members of the public should call Crimestoppers where they can give information anonymously and that information can be passed onto the police. Work with us. Be our eyes and ears so we can make a dent”.

(This article was written and is owned by me, originally published on Powell and Barns Media).

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