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Drug gangs ‘grooming’ East Anglia’s children, says minister

PUBLISHED: 18:17 02 October 2018 | UPDATED: 18:17 02 October 2018

Victoria Atkins Mp has warned drugs gangs operating in the East wnat to 'groom' the region's children
Photo: PA / David Parry

Victoria Atkins Mp has warned drugs gangs operating in the East wnat to 'groom' the region's children Photo: PA / David Parry

PA Wire/PA Images

The crime minister has warned “evil” county lines drugs gangs are determined to “groom” East Anglia’s children in the same way as sex offenders and terrorists.

Home secretary Sajid Javid before speaking at the Conservative Party annual conference 
Photo: Aaron Chown/PA WireHome secretary Sajid Javid before speaking at the Conservative Party annual conference Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Speaking to this paper at Conservative conference in Birmingham, Victoria Atkins said the increase in gangs targeting children to run drugs was having a huge impact in the East.

County lines dealing involves gangs grooming and using children and vulnerable people to traffic drugs into new locations outside their usual markets. An increase in violent crime in some areas has been blamed on county lines.

Ms Atkins said that although gangs often originate in London children were at risk across our region.

MORE: Act now to stop drugs and violence flooding Norfolk’s streets

She said: “They are grooming our young people, let’s be very clear about this. These are not just people dealing in class As, they are grooming our children rather like sex offenders groom children, rather like terrorists groom vulnerable people to ensnare them in their criminality.”

And she sent a clear messages to the gang bosses flooding East Anglia’s streets with drugs: “The full force of the law is coming down on you to stop your evil trade.”

She was speaking after the home secretary Sajid Javid launched a review of drug use in Britain during his conference speech.

She added: “These drug gangs use incredible violent ways to peddle their drugs.

“The reason we launched the serious violence strategy in April this year was because we had been looking at the figures for the previous years. Then home secretary Amber Rudd commissioned Home Office officials to work with everyone across policing so we could get an idea of what was happening and what measures could help to tackle it.

“The strategy is a big document setting out what we are the main drivers of serious violence – the drugs market. County lines is a horrible and ruthless part of that market.

“This is about intervening on young people and vulnerable people before the harm is done. But also about targeting the criminals at the top of these gangs who are behaving in the most horrifically ruthless way with some of these children.

“There has been a lot of work at local and national level to co-ordinate the whole of civil society to tackle this. A couple of weeks ago we launched the National Coordination Centre to help police forces target these gangs.

“But we also need to identify the victims so schools and so on can intervene as well.

“In his speech the home secretary announced a review of drug use looking at what people are using and why they are using it so we can ensure that our approach to this problem is the most effective.”

During his speech Mr Javid confirmed middle-class drug users will be targeted in a purge on the causes of violent crime, saying that sudden bursts of violence can be linked to shifts in the drugs market.

A review will be carried out into who is buying illicit substances as well as who is selling them. It will look at all types of user, including professionals, and all illegal drugs.

The results will be used to help police and organisations like the National Crime Agency crack down on buyers and sellers.

He said: “I am committed to ending the scourge of violent crime and will combat this issue using all the tools at the Government’s disposal.

“We will not only deal with crime when it happens but will go further and strengthen our ability to target and prevent the root causes of criminal behaviour from finding the evidence, ensuring our services are working together and providing the right resources to the right places.”

A £200 million youth endowment fund is also being set up that will focus on violent crime hotspots.

But Labour said the move would not make up for cuts made to public services.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “Violent crime is rising and recorded drug-related crime is surging, but all the Tories can offer is a review, yet another consultation and a £200 million fund that doesn’t replace the money they have already cut from local authorities.

“It’s no use Sajid Javid saying health, education, social services, local government, housing and others are at the root cause of violent crime.

“He is part of a government that has been implementing damaging austerity measures.”

CONFERENCE WHISPERS

Conservative party conference has been gripped by Boris fever.

The Brexit-backing blond bombshell delivered a brutal broadside to Theresa May’s Chequers proposals labelling the plan an “outrage” and a “cheat”.

And the 1,400 people packed into the fringe event lapped it up. The reaction was electric with supporters whopping with delight at the end of almost every sentence.

But, unlike a the rank and file, not all of our region’s MP are keen on Boris.

Speaking under the strict condition I would never reveal their name, one whispered to me after his speech: “Wasn’t that embarrassing? If that is the best he can do in a bid to become the next prime minister we are in bother.

“My view is that he has blown it. This was his big chance but he has gone about it all wrong. In the end I think Boris was always destined to be the nearly man.

“He should go back to writing and chasing women.”

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