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County Lines, the real virus affecting our communities

County Lines, Most people like to acknowledge the fact that there are people in and around our communities that deliberately exploit people for their own gains. Hundreds of not thousands of seasoned criminals are looking into the ever increasing trend of County lines.

The fact that young people are fully aware of the implications on getting drawn into county lines, there is a distinct underbelly of people that see it as almost glamorous and a natural part of youth culture.

The intentional manipulation of young people can never be overlooked and passed off as a “thing’. For many victims of county lines and grooming the effects are long term, with many of them servicing debts that they will never be able to pay back.

Popular culture plays a massive part in county lines and grooming because many influencers are openly speaking about finessing young people into a life of crime. This is appalling to think that such media is not only allowed to be part of youth culture, but is openly played on some of the most common radio stations and online channels. The fact is, there is a definite current of young people falling prey to the lifestyle. Many of these a fully unaware of the consequences involved.

Then of course there are the individuals that want to get involved and see it as an active way of making money. They often look at the County lines movement as a rights of passage into the much larger drug distribution rings. This is also an attractive way of influencing other young people to get involved.

But let’s focus more on the people that have been manipulated into these criminal circles. These individuals are often seeking nothing more than friendships. This is why there are so many cases of young people being groomed online.

Threats are common, with many young people receiving threats online or even having images of dead people sent directly to their mobile phone. These threats are usually repeated on a daily basis until the person receiving the threat gives in to his or her manipulator. It is now common for young people to send images of themselves online to virtual friends that use the threat of exposing these images as leverage to gain access to a constant stream of young people.

The stress that this puts an entire family under is immense. With so many young people suffering from trauma and PTSD among other challenges.

Being aware of who your friends are is not enough now, with the increase in virtual ‘pals’ or families that exist outside of the biological construct, the need for young people to connect presents an ever growing challenge of finding true and meaningful relationships.

More recently, we have all seen the video of a young man apparently trying to abduct a school girl. The incident was filmed by a passerby and due to the presence of two members of the public, the man was confronted and later ran off. Now this type of incident happens on a regular basis, with many of the victims abducted and placed into county lines rings or used for sexual exploitation. What is interesting about this is that the existence of this is not a new or recent occurrence, it is an age old problem.

Perhaps the awareness raised by this video will help towards making parents more understanding when it comes to the complexities involved in the deliberate targeting of our youth.

We all have a responsibility to be vigilant in our communities. We cannot make the issue of county lines and child sex exploitation someone else’s problem. We have to all step up,and acknowledge that this is a problem that will never go away, it will simply become more and more intricate and sophisticated the more we bury our heads under the rug to this.

Our youth are the future and we must adopt a strategy of safeguarding them in a society that perceives them as ‘new skins’.

Paul Mckenzie

www.youthunity.org

www.groomsafe.org

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