Police and community members are coming together, along with an ex-London gang member, to discuss protecting young people in East Sussex from exploitation, particularly regarding local ‘county lines’ drug dealing stemming from London gangs.
At the one day conference, which will see over 50 representatives from different community bodies, attendees will hear from Junior Smart, from St Giles Trust, a South London based organisation.
Smart set up the SOS Project at St Giles Trust following his release from prison, which is intended to offer support to young people who are at risk of, or are already involved in serious gang related crime.
Through a presentation, Smart will demonstrate to those attending how young people from middle class families are becoming more and more at risk of exploitation and grooming in gangs, and will assist police and those directly involved with young people in how to identify and support those at risk.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Rayland of Sussex Police has outlined the dangers that organised crime groups pose to areas such as East Sussex: “Typical ‘County Lines’ activity involves an organised crime group from a large urban area travelling to smaller locations, such as a county or coastal towns … The group may challenge an existing group from the local area or another county lines enterprise, which can lead to violence.
“The groups will sometimes draw vulnerable youngsters, from London or more locally, into their activities, using them as runners to take drugs from one location to another. This exposes them to the risk of violence, gets them involved in other criminality such as sexual exploitation, and cynically introduces them to a criminal lifestyle.
Detective Rayland also went on to make it clear that whilst this issue is not yet directly affecting young people in East Sussex, local police are now better equipped to intervene should such crime begin to affect the area. “This form of child exploitation is not yet prevalent in Sussex and today’s conference is about helping to prepare police and partners to understand and identify it, so that we can be on the front foot and intervene early on.”
Sussex Police have provided information on their website on how to identify child exploitation.