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21 January 2019, 14:29 | Updated: 21 January 2019, 14:42
Taxi drivers, rail staff and bus companies are being asked to help spot the signs of youngsters being exploited by county lines drug gangs.
It is part of a campaign by Devon & Cornwall Police to make sure people know the signs to look out for.
Detective Superintendent Antony Hart explains: ''The next phase of our campaign focuses on transport links. Young, vulnerable people are often transported across our counties using public transport including trains, buses, or private hire taxis.
''We are asking taxi drivers, rail staff and bus company staff to spot the signs of county lines exploitation and look out for these vulnerable young people. If they spot anything which makes them suspicious, they should report it to us.
''County lines is a term used to describe urban gangs supplying drugs to other parts of the UK using dedicated mobile phone lines. The gangs are likely to exploit children or vulnerable adults to move and store drugs and they will often use violence and coercion.
''This is a national issue and Devon & Cornwall Police have been working to identify criminal gangs using the county lines operating model across Devon and Cornwall.
Detective Superintendent Hart continued: ''Safeguarding vulnerable people is one of our biggest priorities as an organisation. County lines exploit vulnerable young people and coerce them to commit criminal activity.
''It’s also important to appreciate that any child can be groomed to carry out county lines work. Vulnerability to exploitation is not always obvious.”
Some of the signs of county lines involvement and exploitation are:
A child or young person going missing from school or home or significant changes in emotional well-being
A person meeting unfamiliar adults or a change to their behaviour
The use of drugs and alcohol Acquiring money or expensive gifts they can’t account for
Lone children from outside of the area
Individuals with multiple mobile phones, tablets or ‘SIM cards’
Young people with more money, expensive clothing, or accessories than they can account for
Unknown or suspicious looking characters coming and going from a neighbour’s house
Relationships with controlling or older individuals or associations with gangs
Suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries
If someone is showing signs of mistreatment, or if a child seems to be travelling long distances and are unfamiliar with a locality, the best advice is to trust your instincts and report your suspicions to the police either online or by calling 101.
You can also report suspicious activity on the rail network to British Transport Police network by texting 61016.
Alternatively you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Further information on county lines can be found on online.