Police tackling serious and organised crime have revealed kids as young as 10 are being targeted by ruthless drugs gangs in Northamptonshire.
Chief Inspector Pete Basham says many of those used as runners eventually rise up the ranks and become trapped in OCG culture where carrying and using weapons is commonplace.
And he admits the police rely on information from locals in the continuing war on dealers.
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CI Basham said: “Criminal gangs operate like a business with the sole intention of making money at the cost of other, more vulnerable people.
“They use various tactics to make money, from drug dealing to labour and sexual exploitation and cybercrime offences.
“We’ve invested extra time, resources and expertise to tackle the issues that come from organised gangs setting up shop in Northamptonshire, but we are reliant on the public’s help.
“We need you to tell us about what’s happening where you live. Has someone moved in with a vulnerable neighbour and is having a lot of visitors? Do you think people are dealing drug near where you live?
“If you have any suspicions, report them to us and we can take action.”
CI Basham is leading a week-long surge in activity as part of the Northamptonshire Police ‘Matters of Priority’ campaign.
He added: “Information from the public is vital to our ability to respond to these criminals.
“You may not see an immediate response from us unless a life is in danger. Please be assured, however, that every piece of information helps us to build a case against people causing a blight on our communities.”
Four men were sentenced to up to seven years each in January after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply class A and class B drugs in Northampton.
The arrests followed information from locals about how the gang were making life a misery for residents on the St David’s estate. They were:
■ Jamie Hobbs, 23, was jailed for seven years, seven months
■ Kray Daniel Stewart, 20, was sentenced to seven years, six months
■ Kaylun Charlie Jermaine Smalley, was sentenced to four years
■ Carl Alan Richardson, 51, was jailed for two years, five months
CI Basham added: "This is the type of action we can take if people tell us what’s happening.”
How you can report concerns to Northamptonshire Police:
Call 999 if someone is in danger or a crime is taking place, 101 for non-emergencies
Speak to a police officer or PCSO
Share information anonymously with CrimeStoppers by calling 0800 555111 or going online
Signs of county lines gangs operating in your area to look out for include:
An increase in visitors and cars to a house or flat, or new faces appearing
Change in residents' mood and/or demeanour
Signs of substance misuse and/or drug paraphernalia
Changes in the way young people you might know dress
Unexplained, sometimes unaffordable new things — jewellery, cars etc
Residents or young people you know going missing, maybe for long periods
Young people seen in different cars/taxis driven by unknown adults
Young people seeming unfamiliar with your community or where they are
Truancy, exclusion, disengagement from school
Increase in anti-social behaviour in the community