The charity Crimestoppers has this week launched a campaign to highlight the pain and suffering that criminals from English cities are inflicting on vulnerable people in Scotland’s rural and coastal towns.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of County Lines, which is when criminals from major cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, London and Birmingham are expanding their drug networks to other areas, bringing with it serious criminal behaviour such as violence, exploitation and abuse.
The term County Lines refers to the use of a single telephone number to order drugs, operated from outside the local area.
This is having a massive impact on rural communities and also on vulnerable children and adults who are being recruited in cities such as Manchester and Liverpool. They then transport cash and drugs all over the country, so that the criminals behind them can remain detached and are less likely to be caught.
They often set up a base in a rural area for a short time, taking over the home of a vulnerable person by ‘cuckooing’ and use adults and children to act as drug runners.
Law enforcement across the UK, including here in Scotland, has made significant arrests of people involved in this type of activity. Many vulnerable adults and children who have been coerced into these activities have been safeguarded.
Angela Parker, Scotland national manager for the independent charity Crimestoppers, said: ‘County Lines isn’t necessarily a term people are familiar with, but as a charity it’s important we raise awareness of this issue and help tackle it.
‘Gangs coming into our communities here in Scotland, particularly the north east, are not welcome. We want to ensure that if they do decide to set-up their operation here, that your information can help get them removed and keep communities safe.
‘When you contact us we won’t judge or ask any personal details. All we want to know is what you know. You’ll remain 100% anonymous. Always.’
The campaign will use a series of ‘spot the signs’ posters, postcards and social media tools to help raise awareness of the issue across Scotland.
Crimestoppers’ youth programme Fearless.org will be visiting Aberdeenshire secondary schools to provide information on county lines and other crime issues, empowering young people to report concerns 100% anonymously via the fearless.org website.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Bell, Police Scotland, said: ‘We are working with our partner agencies such as Crimestoppers charity to identify and support those in our local communities who are being manipulated by those solely driven by financial gain.
‘Providing people with support in relation to housing, health and employment is just some of the steps we take to encourage those with addictions to seek help.
‘Our local communities do not want these individuals and we take robust action to disrupt the harm they cause. However, we rely on information from the public about this kind of suspicious behaviour.
‘I encourage anyone with information to speak to us or if you prefer to stay completely anonymous, then contact the charity Crimestoppers.’
If you have any information about those from English cities who have recently moved into Scottish communities contact Crimestoppers 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use the anonymous online form at Crimestoppers-uk.org.