Criminals are exploiting children and vulnerable adults in Shropshire and Ludlow – we have ten county lines

Criminals are exploiting children and vulnerable adults in Shropshire and Ludlow – we have ten county lines

County lines extend drug dealing from the cities into smaller towns, including to Shropshire. Ludlow is one of the seven towns police identify as vulnerable to county line activity. Two people have recently been jailed for taking over a Ludlow house for drug dealing – cuckooing.

County lines controlled from Merseyside, Manchester and the Midlands are only part of the issue.

Every year in Shropshire, police, medical practitioners and councils monitor around 150 young people vulnerable to child sexual exploitation – CSE.

This part of a nationwide problem of exploitation of children and vulnerable adults by criminals.

Shropshire and Ludlow are low crime areas but we have many vulnerable people who are being exploited by criminals. There is good work underway to tackle the problem but it remains one of the most complex challenges for the public sector.

If you have concerns about anyone, ring 101 or talk anonymously to Crimestoppers online or on 0800 555 111. For an immediate threat ring 999.

County lines extend drug dealing from the cities into smaller towns, including to Shropshire. Ludlow is one of the seven towns police identify as vulnerable to county line activity. Two people have recently been jailed for taking over a Ludlow house for drug dealing – cuckooing.

County lines controlled from Merseyside, Manchester and the Midlands are only part of the issue.

Every year in Shropshire, police, medical practitioners and councils monitor around 150 young people vulnerable to child sexual exploitation – CSE.

This part of a nationwide problem of exploitation of children and vulnerable adults by criminals.

Shropshire and Ludlow are low crime areas but we have many vulnerable people who are being exploited by criminals. There is good work underway to tackle the problem but it remains one of the most complex challenges for the public sector.

If you have concerns about anyone, ring 101 or talk anonymously to Crimestoppers online or on 0800 555 111. For an immediate threat ring 999.

We councillors have received several briefings on exploitation of vulnerable people in recent years. I can’t tell you whether the problem is growing or we are more aware of it. Police say that it is underreported nationally.

Social media and smart phones have made it easier for criminals to groom young people. Easier to persuade them to share sexual images – sexting. Easier to bully them. Entrap them. Abuse them emotionally, physically and sexually. Drag them into criminal activity like county lines. The Marches Academy Trust says that sometimes parents are involved in the lines.

BBC Radio Shropshire has recently reported on county lines in depth. It’s worth spending some time listening to the revealing interviews (here and here). Our partners on Ludlow Young Health, the Children’s Society, have published a case study.  

At the end of last month, Shropshire Councillors received the latest update. You can read the presentation here. It explains how police, councils, schools, the Shropshire Safeguarding Partnership and other agencies tackling the issue.

The police identify ten county lines. They say six towns are vulnerable: Oswestry, Whitchurch, Wem, Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth and Ludlow:

“The most high profile investigation is OCG [Organised Crime Groups] into Oswestry which is around county lines where local children have been exploited by a criminal network from Merseyside. 12 children identified and safeguarded.”

PWITS: Intention with intention to supply. OCG: Organised crime gangs. NRM: National Referral Mechanism (modern slavery). Image: West Mercia Police.

Shropshire Council says it has logged 50 children at risk of criminal exploitation since it started tracking in September. Two children are at high risk of child sexual exploitation. The council believes the total is much higher.

This is not a new problem. Exploitation of children and vulnerable adults is a recurrent theme in many of Charles Dickens’ novels. Exploitation dates back long before that.

What is new is the determination to tackle it. That needs resources. That requires new ways of working across agencies. A lot of work has been done and is being done on exploitation across Shropshire. It is an impressive effort. But as always, we must do more.

Back to top