Over 3,000 school pupils in Broxbourne have been educated and warned about the dangers of county lines criminal activity.
Funding from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner has allowed sessions to be delivered to the children and young people across the borough.
Provided by specialist trainer Leo Powell, the sessions aimed to reduce the number of youngsters getting involved in county lines through early intervention. Almost 80 per cent of them knew either ‘nothing’ or a ‘little bit’ about the danger before the assemblies, but afterwards 96 per cent said they had learned how to keep themselves safer.
County lines is when urban gangs persuade, or force, others to store drugs and money and transport them to other areas. It leads to a rise in crime particularly around child sexual exploitation, drug dealing and knife crime.
These gangs are highly organised criminal networks which use sophisticated, frequently evolving techniques to groom young people and evade capture by the police.
The 20 assemblies at primary and secondary schools took place following funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Action Fund.
These assemblies helped reduce the likelihood of attendees being involved in county lines and serious youth violence. They also let those who are being targeted know where they can turn for help and advice.
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Lewis Cocking, who attended an assembly at Goffs-Churchgate Academy, in Cheshunt, said: “This project has been very successful in educating children how to stay safe, but without scaring them. By getting in early and showing these children and young people how they can stop themselves being drawn into this type of criminality, it will keep them and our communities safer.
“It was clear from the reaction of the students that they had heard about county lines but did not fully understand the techniques used to groom children to get involved. Thank you to Leo for his dedication and hard work on this important subject.”
Leo added: “The threat of children and young people being groomed and exploited into the area of county lines is real. I am honoured that the Police and Crime Commissioner’s team have given me funding, as this has enabled me to raise much needed awareness in primary and secondary schools across the Borough of Broxbourne.”
The results of the scheme are now being assessed to explore rolling the assemblies out to more schools across Hertfordshire.
The Action Fund allows the Commissioner to engage with, and provide a presence to, the wider community. It ensures that non-statutory organisations can bid for funds to support crime prevention and reduction initiatives as well as encouraging them to work with Community Safety Partnerships when crossover work has been identified.