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Do you know a child or vulnerable person who may be exploited by criminals?

Dorset authorities are asking residents to look out for signs of county lines and help protect young people from being exploited by criminals this summer.

Dorset Police, NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, Public Health Dorset, the Youth Offending Service and Dorset Council are working together to tackle child exploitation, including county lines – which involves drug dealing networks using children to connect urban and rural areas across the UK.

And, with the summer holidays almost upon us, residents are being asked to keep an eye out and report any concerns.

Some of the signs of exploitation and county lines involvement are:

• A child or young person going missing from home or significant changes in emotional well-being
• A person meeting unfamiliar adults or a change to their behaviour
• The use of drugs and alcohol
• Acquiring money or expensive gifts they can’t account for
• Lone children from outside of the area
• Individuals with multiple mobile phones, tablets or ‘SIM cards’
• Young people with more money, expensive clothing, or accessories than they can account for
• Unknown or suspicious looking characters coming and going from a neighbour’s house
• Relationships with controlling or older individuals or associations with gangs
• Suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries

Superintendent Caroline Naughton from Dorset Police said:

“Keeping our communities safe from county lines is a priority for Dorset Police throughout the year – but it can be particularly challenging during the summer months due to the sheer numbers of people visiting our county during the holiday season. Dorset remains one of the safest places in the country to live, work and visit and we are asking the public to help us to keep it that way. If they spot any of the signs of county lines, then we ask them to let us know by calling 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

Agencies in Dorset have been working together to improve the way intelligence is collected, shared and acted upon to tackle child exploitation. A multi-agency steering group has been set up to strengthen partnership working and protect vulnerable children and young people.

Sarah Parker, Executive Director for Children at Dorset Council, chairs the steering group. She said:

“County lines can have a devastating impact on children and families’ lives, so we need to all stand together to try and stop it. It’s really important that people know what to look out for and who to contact, so agencies can act and protect children and young people from being exploited. We need our communities to be our eyes and ears and report any concerns.”

If a child or young person is showing signs of mistreatment, seems to be travelling long distances or is unfamiliar with an area, the best advice is to trust your instincts and report your suspicions to the police online or by calling 101. Alternatively, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Find out more information about county lines.