County Lines: Gangs recruiting teenagers over social media in West Midlands to sell drugs

By Nathan Rowden | Crime | Published:

Teenagers from the West Midlands are being recruited by gangs over social media to run and sell drugs.

Police say they face a constant battle to tackle the issue where vulnerable children are being recruited taken on by inner city criminals to sell their drugs in smaller towns, also known as county lines.

West Midlands Police today insisted officers are gathering intelligence and information every day – but that in many cases young people are recruited remotely through social media.

Detective Sergeant Jon Taylor said: “These criminals use vulnerable people and users who either may have a dependency on drug or mental health issues.”

The Catch 22 Wolverhampton Violent Reduction Team has worked with a number of young people who have become involved in county lines and the charity has pointed to social media as being a key tool for drug gangs.

“Social media is key to all this,” said one of the charity’s field workers Steve, who requested his surname be left out due to his work. “These gangs don’t even need to meet the young people face to face now.”

He described how he had worked with one vulnerable 14-year-old boy who was recruited by a gang via Snapchat through an advert that was offering earnings of up to £600 a week, adding: “He saw an advert and just thought it was easy money.”

The conditions these young people are subjected to once they are involved in county lines have been described as “horrific”.

Lucy Dacey, of the Children Society in the region, said: “We have supported young people who haven’t changed clothes or washed in the whole time they have been away, have been forced to witness adults having sex, being raped or taking drugs, sleeping on dirty or soiled mattresses with exposed needles and not being able to contact anyone other than their groomer or exploiter.”

Nathan Rowden

By Nathan Rowden

Senior news feature writer based at the Shropshire Star's head office in Telford. I like to get out, meet people and tell their stories.


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