Education programme to prevent exploitation and violence
02 September 2021
Police and Crime Commissioner, Donna Jones has awarded St Giles Trust £47,000 to deliver County Lines, Child Criminal Exploitation, Knife Crime, Organised Crime and Gang Culture awareness raising sessions in schools across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
The programme will work with pupils in years six and seven (age 10- 12), as transitioning years between Primary and Secondary School. In Hampshire, young people who are exploited are an average age of 14. Working with pupils approaching this age to raise awareness of the signs of exploitation and consequences of violence will mean early intervention and prevention is much more effective.
The aim is to provide these young people with the knowledge and tools to continue to make positive lifestyle choices away from criminality as they enter adulthood. These tools are much harder to embed in young adults and it is also much more difficult to support individuals to safely exit gangs once they are already indebted to gang members.
County lines is the term used by police to refer to urban gangs supplying Class A drugs to suburban areas, rural areas, market and coastal towns using dedicated mobile phone lines. Gangs typically use children and young people as runners to move drugs and money to and from the urban area and this often involves them being exploited through deception, intimidation, violence, debt bondage, grooming and/or trafficking by the gang.
Across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, between April 2020 and March 2021, there was a total of 1,157 known offenders that have carried out drug offence with 13.6% of offenders being aged between 10 and 17 years old.
Donna Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Gangs dealing drugs is not a new issue but the extent to which criminal exploitation of children, as well as increasing use of violence, has become an inherent part of county lines makes it especially damaging.
“Raising awareness at an earlier age of the tricks that are used by these gangs to draw children in can help prevent them from getting involved, being exploited and being in danger of committing, or becoming a victim of, violence.
“This is an absolute area of focus for me as I want to support young people to stop them becoming involved in crime and the criminal justice system.”
Nicci MacGillivray, SOS+ Team Manager (London & South England) at St Giles Trust said: “We are thrilled to work with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and Constabulary; offering our preventative sessions on violence, vulnerability and exploitation. Our approach uses trained professionals with lived experience of the criminal justice system to de-glamorise gang involvement and expose the harsh realities of crime and violence.
“Our mission is to prevent children and young people becoming involved in gangs and youth violence by equipping them with tools, knowledge and support to recognize and resist attempts to groom them into gangs.”
This training supports the work of the Violence Reduction Unit, Hampshire Constabulary and the Hampshire, Isle of Wight Portsmouth and Southampton’s Exploitation Strategy.