County Lines crime is on the increase across the UK ..but South Wales is really baring the brunt!
Drug gangs are travelling from big cities like London and Liverpool to set up businesses here.
Over the past 12 months our news team has been investigating the devastating impact it is having on our communities in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.
LISTEN here to Day 1 of our special reports:
Today we are turning our focus to victims of cuckooing. It's when drug gangs target a vulnerable person and take over their home.
Tom first started taking drugs as a university student. He used them initially to help him revise for his exams - taking amphetamine. It led to cannabis, heroin and crack cocaine. Someone he though was a friend betrayed his trust and let a gang into his house.
We've changed his name to protect his identity.
LISTEN to Tom's story here:
LISTEN here to Day 2 of our Special Reports:
LISTEN here to Day 3 of our Special Reports:
Swansea taxi driver Dai has been the victim of assault, been held at knife-point and dragged from this cab. He told us drug users are frequently using taxis to run their goods around the city. Dai says the things he has experienced are just 'a part of the job' but that should not be the case.
LISTEN here to Day 4 of our Special Reports:
And perhaps the hardest thing to hear. Parents are trading their children for drugs or to get rid of their debt. These children are then groomed into becoming drug runners, drug users and even victims of sexual exploitation.
LISTEN here to Day 5 of our Special Reports:
We have spoken to those policing the issue, agencies providing outreach to street walkers, rehab support services struggling with demand.
Detective Inspector Stuart Johnson, is the Senior Investigating Officer for County Lines in our area told us: "In the last twelve months there have been 400 arrests of individuals from outside of South Wales Police who have been affecting Western BCU, which is Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, with the selling of drugs linked to County Lines, which is a massive figure. What we find is enforcement does work - but what we need a lot more help from partners to protect the vulnerable individuals which are being used by the gangs to carry on their enterprise.
"There is a big campaign at the moment to approach this in a multi-agency way. Ultimately the police alone cannot do this on their own.
"What we are asking is that if anyone out there needs help, please come forward. If you believe a family member or friend is being cuckooed then please contact us you can do that direct via the police or Crimestoppers."
Our investigation has been picked up by our sister station talkRADIO in London. Our reporter Emma Grant appeared on Eamonn Holmes drive time programme on Wednesday 28th of November to talk County Lines crime with Swansea and Neath Port Talbot's Chief Superintendent Martin Jones. LISTEN here:
Who do urban gangs target?
Urban gangs target vulnerable young people and adults. Some of the factors that heighten a person’s vulnerability include:
• Having prior experience of neglect, physical or sexual abuse;
• Lack of a safe/stable home environment;
• Social isolation or social difficulties;
• Economic vulnerability;
• Homelessness or insecure accommodation status;
• Connections with other people involved in gangs;
• Having a physical or learning disability;
• Having substance misuse or mental health issues;
• Being a ‘looked after’ child, particularly in residential care;
• Resident of social housing in drug hotspot, particularly young females with children.
However, gangs are increasingly recruiting young people, often via social media, who do not exhibit the vulnerabilities outlined above. Their appearance and demeanour makes them better able to blend in to affluent areas where the street gangs may stand out.
Any child or vulnerable adult can be affected and it’s important to recognise that is can still be exploitation, even if the activity appears consensual.
What to do if you are concerned about activity in your area
We all have a role to play in keeping our local areas safe from drug dealing, and associated gang exploitation and violence.
If you suspect drug dealing is taking place or you are concerned that a young person or vulnerable adult may have been targeted by an organised crime group, please tell us. You don’t have to be certain, just concerned.
Call us on 101 or if you prefer you can contact Crimestoppers to report anonymously – online or by calling 0800 555 111.
If someone is in immediate danger or a crime is taking place you should always dial 999.
There are a range of support services which you may find useful:
Fearless – 0800 555 111
Childline – 0800 1111
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) – 0870 000 3344
Barnardo’s Cymru: http://www.barnardos.org.uk/what_we_do/barnardos_today/wales.htm
Modern Slavery Helpline – 08000 121 700