Private school pupils are being recruited by county lines drug gangs official

Private school pupils are being recruited by county lines drug gangs because police are less likely to spot them, an official report has warned.The criminal networks recruit youngsters to carry or sell drugs with threats of violence against them and their families, or by making them believe they have a debt to repay.A report from the police, education, care and probation inspectorates stresses that children from any background can be sucked in by the ruthless gangs.It says: “Children targeted for the purpose of county lines come from a wide range of backgrounds. Local children can be groomed into selling drugs, as well as children from outside the area.–– ADVERTISEMENT ––”County lines activity is dynamic and perpetrators will change their method of exploitation quickly, such as by targeting new groups of children to exploit in order to avoid detection.”Examples include grooming affluent children attending public school, who are less likely to be identified as ‘drug running’ by the police.”Other targets include older, neglected children who are less likely to be reported missing, youngsters in care, those not in full-time education, and some with special needs or mental health issues.The report, published on Wednesday, said: “Exploited children come from a wide range of backgrounds. For some, their homes will be a place of safety and security, for others this will not be the case. “Whatever the child’s home circumstances, the risks from exploitation spread beyond risks to the child. Their families may also be threatened or be highly vulnerable to violence from the perpetrators of criminal exploitation.”Every police force in England and Wales has reported some form of activity by county lines gangs, according to the National Crime Agency.There are thought to be around 1,500 of the networks in operation in the UK, which involve urban dealers forcing children to carry drugs to customers in more rural areas.They also “cuckoo” the homes of vulnerable or drug-addicted people to stash illegal substances.Sometimes children are forced to move away to live in one of these homes and sell drugs, with threats of violence against their family if they do not comply.The gangs commonly use one phone line – that can make up to £5,000 per day – which drug users ring to order illegal substances.Members of the network are sometimes involved in violent battles for control of the line because it is so lucrative. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. read more