Nearly one in five (19%) UK teenage boys say they or their friends have been offered work by drug suppliers, a survey commissioned by British Transport Police (BTP) suggests.

Data further reveals that more than a quarter (27%) of boys aged 13 to 19 have seen drugs being offered or sold either at school or on social media.

To counter drug suppliersā€™ attempts to groom, manipulate and seduce children into the drug trade, BTP has today (1 March) launched an all-new campaign. The ā€˜Donā€™t Take the Baitā€™ digital campaign highlights the tactics drug gangs use to coerce and exploit teens.

Drug gangs are known to offer money, mobile phones, gaming tokens, vapes and clothing in exchange for what they present as a ā€˜business opportunityā€™. Social media messages sent by drug suppliers to teenagers seen by BTP include, ā€œwho wants to make Ā£500 this weekend?ā€ and ā€œwho wants overtime?ā€.

BTPā€™s dedicated County Lines Taskforce routinely encounter young and vulnerable people on the railway who have been exploited by gangs to carry drugs between locations.

The force is urging parents to speak to their children about the tactics county lines drug gangs use to hook them into a life of fear, violence and scams.

Since the Taskforce was setup with Home Office funding in late 2019 to tackle county lines activity on the railway, it has made 2,250 arrests and thousands of vital safeguarding interventions, including 115 referrals into the national referral mechanism for safeguarding.

Of those arrested, 40 per cent have been under the age of 19, however only one in five (20%) have been criminalised.

Detective Superintendent Gareth Williams, BTPā€™s County Lines Taskforce lead, said: ā€œItā€™s not uncommon for my dedicated teams to encounter children on the railway who are being exploited to traffic drugs. 

ā€œSupported by safeguarding experts, a key priority of ours is to identify these victims and pull them out of harmā€™s way. The youngest person weā€™ve found being exploited in county lines activity was a boy aged 13 ā€“ in that case the couple controlling him to courier drugs were jailed for over 12 years.

ā€œWeā€™re relentless in our pursuit of these heartless human traffickers, and we are utilising modern slavery legislation to ensure they serve adequately lengthy jail terms.ā€

If you know who is exploiting young people in this way, you can give information 100% anonymously at fearless.org. Fearless are not the police, they are a charity. Anonymous means your identity is completely unknown.