Children being used as street drug dealers in Thanet

Child street dealers Photo James Sutton

Many of the isle’s street drug dealers are children who have been targeted by criminals higher up the chain, police revealed at a meeting with Ramsgate business owners.

The youngsters are often vulnerable and may have their own addiction problems, they added.

The information came in response to complaints from town business owners about open street dealing, often behind and in front of the town’s  police station, or in the main shopping areas.

Traders at the meeting said deals in broad daylight were impacting on business and pushing people away from the town.

But Sergeant Neil Fuller. said police needed to gather intelligence so those ‘pulling the strings’ could be brought to justice.

‘Higher up the food chain’

He said: “We do not have the resources to target every single street deal and that is not going to solve the problem. We need to target those in charge.

“A lot of the street dealers are children and a lot of them are vulnerable. The best way to deal with that is to engage and avert them from that path. We have to proactively work to get to those higher up the food chain in terms of the drug market.”

Thanet’s former chief inspector Lara Connor, who has since taken on a new role, said police do prosecute youngsters but only as one of a number of options.

She said: “We carry out safe and well visits, use education and there are enforcement options. It is part of a bigger picture. Every single drug deal taking place won’t be subject to police action but it will be subject to intelligence and building up that bigger picture.”

Plain clothes officers are used alongside those in uniform to target the dealers and those who have recruited them. There were also four stop and searches for drugs in Ramsgate town this Summer and 18 ‘vulnerable young person’ visits, Swabbing for drugs has taken place in a licensed premise, dispersal powers have been used in the town and hot spot areas have been included in regular patrols.

County Lines

Photo David Townsend

Youngsters are often targeted as part of County Lines drug operations –  – criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of “deal line” – adapting their business model to snare local children and teens as mules in a bid to operate under the radar and reduce costs.

An award of £527,573 was given to Kent Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Matthew Scott, to fund a major project tackling the root causes of serious violence among children and young people -including drugs – in June, The project involves different schemes tackling gangs, county lines and exploitation in Kent. Among those already working in Thanet is the St Giles Trust which, since September 2017, has been helping east Kent youngsters exit ‘gang’ operations.

The cash award was made by the Home Office.

‘Intervention’

Chief Inspector Connor said: ‘We will actively pursue and look to prosecute anyone involved in drug activity in Thanet, regardless of whether they are adults or under 18.

 “There are various outcomes following an arrest, including conviction and jail. In some cases however there are better ways to tackle the problem such as education and intervention.

“‘We can use restorative justice, particularly with young people when they are found to be vulnerable. It is only an option when the victim agrees to its use and it gives offenders the chance to take responsibility for their actions and with the right support change their ways.

 “It’s important we recognise that young people are at risk of being exploited, not just in Thanet but all over our county, which is why we don’t stop there.

 “Officers work tirelessly to disrupt and dismantle criminal activity linked to county line drug-dealing at the top level, which can sometimes be the root cause of the problem. As such we will continue to investigate and identify those responsible for bringing drugs into our county and ensure all steps are taken to put a stop to it.

“We have good systems in place to safeguard those most vulnerable and work with our partner agencies regularly on education and intervention.”

Ch Insp Connor also revealed Thanet has received government funding to extend dedicated work tackling violent crime. The project ran through the summer and has now been extended until November to work in Ramsgate and Margate.

There is also a £9,000 pot for work by the Charlton Athletic Trust, co-ordinating with police, through the Thanet Mentoring Programme. This supports, guides and challenges young people aged 12 to 24 in Thanet who are either at risk of becoming involved in crime or already in the criminal justice system.

District councillor and Charlton Athletic Trust worker Becky Wing (pictured above) is working on the scheme.

‘Alarming’

The meeting was organised by district and county councillor Karen Constantine. She said: “We have worked with the police, calling on them for a strategic additional presence on the streets to help to counter anti social behaviour. Over the years we have witnessed changing patterns. We know that young people will always gather together and that they don’t always understand that hanging out as a large group is both noisy and sometimes intimidating to others. 

“We are aware that we have drink and drug addicts on our streets. Recent reports of drug dealing out in the open are alarming. No one wants to see this. I fully support the police in their efforts to tackle this, often in plain clothes and undercover. 

“We appreciate the police are trying to stop vulnerable youngsters being pulled into County Lines drug dealing gangs. The real problem, however, is those who control this activity. 

“What traders want and need is greater police visibility so this isn’t happening openly on our streets. This is the sort of activity that will put people off visiting and shopping in Ramsgate and could lead to the closure of businesses. We also need to tackle this problem at root cause, boosting police numbers and ensuring the restoration of youth services for our young people. 

“There aren’t any simple, short term solutions, but we need to boost our ‘public sector’. We have to employ more police and youth workers, and tackle substance misuse. We also need to kick start a programme of house building to end the misery of homelessness. All of these solutions could create valuable jobs in our local economy and bring prosperity which in turn can be spent in our locality.”

National data from the NCA

2,000  County Lines deal line numbers and 1,000 branded County Lines

Heroin and crack cocaine most commonly supplied through the lines

Typical age of ‘groomed’ youngsters is 15-17 but examples of children as young as 11 being recruited

Vulnerable adults also targeted, especially with property ‘cuckooing’

Threats of kidnap, violence and sexual abuse made against those trying to exit County Lines

14 Comments

  1. How long has it taken for people to open their eye’s, l walk around Garlinge and see drugs being sold in front of me as there isn’t any police presence in Garlinge and around thanet, until thanet police get back to basics drugs will carry on being sold openly on the streets, don’t fill sorry for kids /teenagers because it’s easy money because they know no one will stop them.

    • Sort it out TDC your 100%right there trying to tell us something that we have been telling the powers that be for years what is happening right under their noses if they had listened to us this situation would be much better the big boys would be jailed this realisation by them is at least 5 years to late.

  2. Hi Richard, the problem is until you stop a lot of the family members doing drugs or stopping their kids using or dealing which a lot of them know what they are doing it would be a waste of time taking it to the schools to teach young kids not to go that route, l can walk you by homes where l live not only the family is using the kids/teenagers go out dealing too,

  3. Hi big Chris,
    Everything you said is true TDC and the police knew about this problem years ago but they thought leave it alone and it will go away well guess what it didn’t, we don’t even see a pcso in the area anymore,

    • Sort it out TDC thanks and to many who think it’s not happening need to open their eyes it is worse in some areas than others and if you are lucky to be in a lesser area then think yourself very fortunate but keep your eyes open watch people go in to a home come out soon after and same person comes back next day or a few days later and pattern is going on everywhere or in the alleyway street corner they rarely get caught and why because they are children. My daughter started on weed when 13 she has sold it to pay for her addiction and I hate it when I say hate it I mean it I detest drugs and always have in excess of 40 years and I have tried to get her to stop in the 5 years since I found out but to no avail the line was if I don’t get pocket money then I will sell it and she has I’ve seen how much she paid to the bloke she owed. The problem is made so bad as the bigger ones 18 and above play on the minds of the young boys/girls with the money they get give them a bit of free weed and they are hooked then they sell to pay for the addiction. It is so sad to see so many wasted lives.

  4. There is an active drug gang in Thanet who operate on scooters, they are also responsible for a huge amount of anti social behaviour and are making certain areas a shithole for local residents, this gang is not being coerced, they are in it for the cash, the high they get through dealing and they simply do not want jobs.
    This drug dealing gang on scooters are targeting 14, 15 year old kids and have been for at least 2 years. They have been reported numerous times to the police but nothing has been done in 2 years. How many young kids are now addicted to this shit because the police have failed in their duties? How many residents who live near to these scumbags are suffering in misery because of the antisocial behaviour ?
    These kids are not innocent, they are fully aware of their actions, they don’t care who they hurt in the process, they don’t care how many other youngsters they are making addicted.
    Until these kids realise there are consequences and punishments for their illegal actions they will continue to laugh in the faces of the people who’s lives are blighted by them and make the police look even more lazy and incompetent than they already are. Arrest this scum, it’s not right that people are scared to leave their houses because of these drug dealers. Stop defending these junkies and give the victims of crime the power back.
    Perhaps when one of these junkie dealers runs over and kills an innocent passerby while drugged out of their skull then the police might do something but I doubt it, the criminal justice system is confused and sees the criminal as the victim and the victims of criminals as cannon fodder.

    • Well said absolutely agree with you about the bikers we need more police everywhere as not enough on streets to cope with what is happening. These biking drug pushers do not give a shit about anyone or thing if it is in the way hit it. As you say for years they have been reported to police some have been caught but they just get another to do it. If we can stop the supply to the dealer from the big gangs then we can hurt them.

  5. Sorry I would like to say I know I’ve said a lot on this thread about the drug selling kids. But I want to praise the boys & girls who are not giving in to scum who try tempting them into a life of drugs and are really doing theirselves and parents proud it is not quite all doom and gloom in thanet.

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