Report shows scale of work being undertaken in Southend, to disrupt criminals running county lines

Published Friday, 14th December 2018

County Lines See The Signs Campaign poster girl as a puppet on strings

A draft report and action plan is being tabled for discussion by the Schools Forum/Education Board, on Tuesday 18 December 2018.

The board will discuss the current action plan and its progress, as well as plans for future partnerships work to address criminal gang and drug-related activity in the borough.

This report covers the wide-ranging work the violence and vulnerability group has been undertaking to prevent children being groomed by criminal gangs, to disrupt drug and gang activities in the borough, and to raise awareness of the issues of county lines so key individuals in the community, and parents of young children can spot the signs of possible grooming.

The violence and vulnerability group consists of representatives from a number of agencies, who are working closely together to close down on the issue of county lines. Agencies include Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s children services team, adult services, local head teachers, Essex Police and the NHS.

Actions from the group include forming a “circle” around vulnerable children, working together across the agencies to ensure children are protected, sharing intelligence and creating plans to help and protect individuals.

To complement the strong activity being carried out by the police and children’s services to protect individuals and to break down these lines in our borough, the violence and vulnerability group has joined together to run two public awareness campaigns. The first campaign, #SeeTheSigns, is aimed at parents in the borough, alerting them to the issue of criminal gangs who are targeting young children. To date the campaign has been seen over 260,000 times online. The accompanying video has been watched over 63,000 times. This is in addition to significant outdoor advertising on trains, at stations, in cinemas and in the high street.

Parents have been informed that signs to look out for in their children include: persistently going missing from school or home, or being found out of area, unexplained acquisition of money, clothes or mobile phones, receiving excessive calls or texts, relationships with controlling or older adults, carrying weapons, changes in emotional wellbeing, and unexplained injuries.

This has been followed up with the #MerryMuletide campaign, which is designed to appeal to recreational drug users’ consciences and tells the grim reality of the children that are used to supply their party drugs.

Councillor Helen Boyd, cabinet member for children and learning said, “The multi-agency team is making strong headway in disrupting the activities of these criminals. Working closely with schools, the NHS, the police and others, and creating co-ordinated action is helping the police close in on those managing county lines. The group supports our children’s services team to identify and protect those at risk of being targeted by gangs, and to protect those who are already caught up in this activity, helping them find means of escape. It helps ensure there is joined up work by the NHS, schools, social workers and other relevant agencies through the sharing of intelligence and a shared strategy.

“This report highlights the work we’re doing, to ensure our borough is an incredibly difficult place for these criminals to operate within. Vulnerable children are being protected, parents are aware of the signs to spot, schools are looking out for early signs of issues, injuries are followed up by the NHS and the group, and the police have the support they need to close in on those running these lines. Southend will not stand for this criminal activity.We will continue to work as a multi-agency group to protect our borough and keep our community safe.”