Thursday, February 20, 2020


Sometimes the training sessions which Blue Sky put on are interesting in themselves, never mind how useful they are to your fostering.

The most recent one I attended ticked both boxes.

It was about something called County Lines, to do with drugs and - specifically - under-age people.

I had no idea how huge the business of selling drugs using kids has become.  If you haven't heard of County Lines hold on to your hat…

County Lines refers to the systems that drug dealers use to break out of their inner city lairs and push their drugs in smaller cities, towns and even villages. Their business model is so well designed, efficient and effective it makes you wish we could harness the dealers' intelligence and endeavour for common good. It works like this;

They use kids to sell to kids, they recruit the junior drug pushers* by coming out and looking for kids who are out of the house at twilight, especially hanging around places like skateparks. They look for the loners, preferably tall lads or girls who can pass for being older than they are. Little ones and those in groups are no good. They befriend the loner. The loner is made up that someone who is three or four years older than them, and who dresses cool, seems to like him or her.

Next time they meet up the pusher has a couple of bottles of beer and gives one to the victim. The time after that the pusher has some cigarettes and they share.

The next time it's a joint.

The next time they meet the pusher has bought them a pair of trainers like his own, £150 ones. He explains he has money because he does odd jobs for a bloke. He offers a job to the victim, all they have to do is take a parcel by train over to another town and deliver it to someone who'll be waiting in a fast food outlet.

If asked the pusher says the parcel contains sherbet. The victim will earn £100. They have to go towards the end of the day, when it's dark; they do everything at twilight. They do the job.

The delivery might entail crossing from one county into another. Drug gangs use this trick because it means crossing county lines, and when that happens it makes things harder for the police to tie everything together because our police forces are organised along county lines. When the jurisdiction of criminal activity is complicated the inquiries are much harder - records have to be shared manually, the question of which county any misdemeanour occurred is difficult, the red tape and protocols get in the way of proper policing.

The pusher keeps the victim supplied with whatever substances they are getting hooked on, and starts the victim recruiting more victims. The victim must get themselves a cell of customers who place regular orders. They are advised to go for kids who are disaffected, whose parents don't mind where they are after dark and possibly don't care. Maybe the parents don't mind their children being out because they can do some recreational drugs themselves.

Now the dealers start to make their real money. The victim has maybe one or two or three cells of half a dozen kids in each who they can use as customers and also to help  distribute the drugs. But the pushers have them where they want them because they tell them that the bill for all the drugs they've given them for personal use comes to several hundreds of pounds.

And if they don't start paying it off there'll be big trouble.

Now the victim is terrified, can't go to the police or tell anybody. They are not only working for free, they are handing over any profits made on the drugs they are selling to pay off their debts.

This next bit is particularly shocking; one other way they can pay off their debt is by agreeing to have sex with whoever the dealers choose.

If they can't pay they are in big danger because the dealers need to make sure their terror is real. Anytime you hear on the news of a kid stabbed or shot, there's a chance that it's connected to county lines.

Things have got so bad for some victims that they are taken into care and removed - hundreds of miles away - to where they can be given a new identity and can't be found by the dealers.

By any other name it's pyramid selling of the most appalling sort, and it's hugely important that Foster Carers know what to look out for since teenagers in care are perfect for recruitment.

I said 'teenagers' back there, I've just remembered that our excellent lecturer for this five star training session told us that County Lines is starting to recruit kids from junior schools...

* the pusher can be male or female  depending on who they are targeting….


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