A new campaign addressing county lines and wider criminal exploitation is launching virtually in schools across the District this month as part of Cannock Chase Council’s safeguarding work.
The Council’s Community Safety Team has commissioned Loudmouth Education & Training to deliver a virtual lesson to schools on county lines, knife crime and criminal exploitation.
The ‘Under the Radar’ programme will use drama and discussion to raise awareness of county lines with children and young people. In the drama, the character Mikey, looks back on how as a teenager he got groomed into running county lines for a criminal gang.
The aim of the session is to teach children and young people about the risks involved in youth violence and criminal exploitation and the signs to look out for as well as encouraging people to report their concerns and make a referral to the relevant agency.
The programme will be rolled out to all secondary schools, the local Pupil Referral Unit and a number of primary schools. Digital resource packs are being distributed to schools and include information about the county lines, campaign material, signposting details for local support services and lesson plans.
Campaign messages will also be promoted further using online advertising via the Council’s website and social media platforms.
Virtual workshops are also being planned for parents, guardians and carers to share the campaign messages and to educate adults about the warning signs of their child potentially being exploited by a criminal gang. Dates of these workshops will be announced on the Council’s social media pages in the coming weeks.
This campaign forms part of a wider safeguarding campaign, ‘See something, Say something’, which aims to encourage people to report any concerns they may have about an individual.
It is being funded by the Commissioner’s Proceeds of Crime Fund.
Cllr Alan Pearson, Leader of Crime and Partnerships, said: “The Council is committed to ensuring children, young people and parents are aware of the signs associated with criminal exploitation as well as making sure people report any concerns they may have about an individual.
“Keeping young people safe is a key priority for the Council and we work closely with partners to do this. This includes working with schools and other educational settings to raise awareness and protect young people from the dangers associated with county lines and wider exploitation.
“Using theatre is a great way to get important messages to young people and it is hoped people will be able to identify some of the warning signs and get the help they need.
“If you have concerns about a young person who is at risk of being exploited, report it by calling 0800 131 3126”.
Staffordshire Commissioner for Police, Fire and Rescue and Crime, Matthew Ellis said: “Through the Proceeds of Crime Act, police are able to seize the ill-gotten gains of criminals and use them to make a real difference to our communities.
“I provided money from the fund to support this important educational resource, which will not only help to keep children safe but also give them the confidence and knowledge to seek support if they are concerned about criminal exploitation.”
Chief Inspector Rebecca Hyde, of Cannock Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “I am pleased to support this programme and would encourage any young person across the Cannock Chase area to get involved in the virtual workshops which will help them and their parents or guardians identify risks and understand what they can do to protect themselves and others from violence, criminal activity, exploitation and harm.
“This could be anything from child exploitation through online grooming or gang involvement and violence due to county lines drug activity.
“We are committed to preventing child exploitation in Cannock Chase and the wider Staffordshire area as we look to disrupt county lines activity and give children and young people the support and protection they need to thrive.”
Eleanor Vale, Company Director of Loudmouth Education & Training said: “We are really excited about this project and are determined to still make this happen even during these strange time. We would encourage all the schools who are being offered the opportunity to take it up quickly due to the short timeline. We have until the end of March to work with a range of pupils they have actually attending school. We are offering the sessions as virtual live streamed sessions run by our experienced staff or as pre-recorded lessons school staff can run. Both these formats have been working really well. We want to get this out to as many children and young people in Cannock Chase area as we can. All we need is for schools to sign up and we will do the rest.”
If you are concerned about drug-related crime in your area or think someone may be a victim of drug exploitation, please call Staffordshire Police on 101 (non-emergency).
If it's an emergency, please call 999.
You can also report online at www.staffordshire.police.uk or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
If you are worried about a child or young person contact First Response on 0800 1313 126 or out of hours 0345 6042 886.
For further information about this campaign contact the Community Safety team on 01543 464387 or visit the campaign web page here.