Express & Star comment: It’s time to protect all our children
It’s a sad and disturbing sight – a child alone on a bus late at night or one wandering aimlessly around a shopping centre during school hours.
For most of us, we wouldn’t think twice and would carry on with our busy daily lives.
However, perspectives and perceptions must now change given our report today that a new child grooming scheme run by drug gangs is taking place right under our noses.
These vicious gang leaders are bringing misery to our young by forcing them to commit serious drug offences.
Taking advantage of them and plying them with gifts, they are grooming youths before entrapping them into a life of slavery.
Thankfully, and about time, the authorities are now finally waking up to this horrific crime.
But with a lack of resources available to the police, it is an almost impossible task to bring it down.
Intelligence is not strong enough to even determine exactly how many of these operations – County Lines – there exactly are.
And when it comes to finding out how many people run them, well that appears to be anyone’s guess.
And so, as is so often the case, it falls down to members of the public, completely untrained in criminology and with no enforcement powers, to help.
We do have sympathy with the struggling officers.
From the outside it looks more like a game of Whack-A-Mole with the people at the top of drug gangs simply popping up a vulnerable victim for the police to hammer while hiding themselves in the dark.
But what can we expect? This Government is simply failing in its task to provide sufficient support for police forces to tackle crime.
Officer numbers in the West Midlands are at the lowest since 1974. Yet crime is rising and getting more complex, from intricate cyber crime to this, County Lines.
And so, just like the public being expected to help raise funds for our forces with raising precepts, we must now open our eyes and ears to detect suspect victims of slavery operations.
Yet, despite our frustration with the powers that be, we must not turn a blind eye, we must help those who need our help most.