Islington teens caught in Norfolk drug rings - as council boss urges: 'They are slaves and need our help'
PUBLISHED: 12:43 25 July 2017 | UPDATED: 12:48 25 July 2017
Vulnerable Islington youngsters caught up in gang activity elsewhere in the country are being treated as "slaves".
That’s the view of Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington Council’s policy boss for young people, after three recent instances of young people caught in Norfolk drug dealing rings.
And Cllr Caluori said this was only the “tip of the iceberg”.
A recent All-Party Parliamentary Group paper on missing children said that London gangs are grooming young people to sell Class A drugs outside the capital, known as “county lines”. In addition to Norfolk, Islington youngsters, mainly male and aged between 15 and 17, have been caught dealing in 13 other parts of the UK. Some were as far away as Scotland and Cornwall.
Cllr Caluori told the Gazette’s Eastern Daily Press sister paper: “They are paired with an older gang member, who is called a soldier, and they will travel to a location outside of London.
“So it could be Swaffham or King’s Lynn. They will go to the main shopping area, befriend an addict, and then take over that person’s house, which will become a trap house.”
He said the homes are then used to deal drugs from, and a phone line is established which is handed out to local addicts.
Mr Caluori added: “The big thing for us is when police from Norfolk find an individual from our borough and arrest them, we want police to treat them as vulnerable people, rather than a criminal, because they are essentially working as slaves.”
His thoughts were echoed by the NSPCC, which said: “It’s vital that as a society we recognise the signs of grooming, and understand that young people can be groomed for a variety of sinister motives – whether for sex, radicalisation or by gangs. Children who have been groomed are victims and need help to get their lives back on track.”
The All-Party Parliamentary Group paper said youngsters are either snared into the county lines dealing by the offer of cash and a glamorous lifestyle, or forced into drug running through threats or paying back debts owed to the gang.
Cllr Caluori has taken the lead on county lines for 18 London boroughs, and has written to home secretary Amber Rudd to call for government help in protecting vulnerable young people at risk of exploitation.