This month, West Midlands Police have been making a concerted effort to tackle so-called ‘county lines’ crime.
‘County lines’ refers to when criminal gangs smuggle drugs (and other illegal goods) between different parts of the country.
Not only does this help to spread drug distribution and sales networks into new communities, but it also very often involves the exploitation of young and vulnerable people, who are coerced into moving and storing drugs, money, and more – often using violence, including sexual violence, and even weapons.
In order to raise awareness of the danger, police officers will be speaking to thousands of school pupils across Solihull, letting them know what to look for and where they can find help if they need it.
But you don’t need to be a professional to keep an eye out for some of the danger signs. If somebody you know is persistently going missing from home or school, acquiring new money phones or clothes without explanation, carrying multiple mobile phones, or even just receiving excessive texts or calls, they might be being exploited by a gang.
If you are worried about someone, you can chat online to West Midlands Police via their website. Fearless.org are another good sources of advice, as are CRIMESTOPPERS (who also allow you to give anonymous reports).
Another really insidious crime is domestic abuse. Too often perpetrators are able to torment their victims in private whilst putting on their best face for the outside world, and escaping an abusive partner takes both courage and support.
I’m proud that the Government has made cracking down on domestic abuse a priority. We’re introducing new ‘ASBOs’ to help protect victims, giving people new rights to check their partner’s past, and classifying financial coercion as a form of abuse.
But there’s still more to do. That’s why last week I stood up in Parliament and asked Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, what his Department can do to ensure that we see more prosecutions brought against perpetrators of this vicious crime – and thus more convictions.
He said that more could be done to ensure that police forces have the powers they need, and I look forward to seeing this taken forward.
Originally published in the Solihull Mail, 31/01/19.