Islington Council: ‘Gangs grooming kids to do drug deals could be next Rotherham’

Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington executive member for children and young people

Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington executive member for children and young people - Credit: Archant

“County lines” drug dealing could be the next grooming scandal if the government doesn’t step in to help protect vulnerable youngsters.

Islington Town Hall

Islington Town Hall - Credit: Archant

That is the message from 19 London boroughs – led by Islington – to home secretary Amber Rudd.

Young children are being exploited by older gang members for the “county lines” dealing, in which they are sent to underdeveloped drug markets in seaside and market towns hundreds of miles outside London to sell crack cocaine and heroin.

Some as young as 12 have been caught in the act as far away as Cornwall and south Wales.

Now Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington’s children’s boss, has written to Ms Rudd asking for a meeting to discuss the issue. The letter is co-signed by the lead members for children’s services at 18 other councils in the capital.

It warns the grooming and exploitation used in “county lines” could create the next Rotherham scandal and calls for a national approach, with input from the National Crime Agency, to tackle the problem – which transcends geographical boundaries.

Cllr Caluori said: “We have seen in Islington how organised gangs are trying to minimise their risks and maximise their profits by grooming and exploiting vulnerable young people to run drugs, money and even weapons to remote locations.

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“Our assessment showed vulnerable young people here and right across London are at risk.

“We have come together to request this meeting because we know the damage county lines drug dealing can cause to young lives in our communities.

“This problem crosses local authority and police boundaries and requires a national solution from the Home Office. We all need to work together on this to safeguard vulnerable young people – and urgently.”