Intervening early must be a priority to help children turn away from gangs, Barnardo’s says in response to the National Crime Agency’s report on County Lines.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:
Our frontline services are identifying an emerging, shocking trend of child criminal exploitation, particularly through so called ‘county lines’ activity, where children are coerced or manipulated by organised gangs.
They may be forced to carry weapons and drugs, go missing from home and are found in other parts of the country and subjected to violence and sexual abuse. These children must not be criminalised, but treated as victims first and given long-term specialist support to protect and help them recover.
The Government’s Serious Violence Strategy talks about identifying children at risk and intervening early – we urgently need to make this a priority. Only by working with families and communities can we tackle the root causes, and create positive opportunities for young people, so they have the strength to turn away from gangs.