Updated: May 24, 2021
Taxi drivers across Nottinghamshire are being urged to spot the signs of vulnerable children travelling alone as they could be involved with county lines drug lines.
Officers from Nottinghamshire Police visited DG Cars in Nottingham city centre to educate drivers on how they could look out for criminal exploitation in which criminals groom and manipulate children into drug dealing.
The engagement is hoped to help tackle county lines where urban drug dealers expand their activity into rural areas.
County lines is a term used to describe urban gangs supplying drugs to other parts of the UK using dedicated mobile phone lines. The gangs are likely to exploit children or vulnerable adults to move and store drugs and they will often use violence and coercion.
This is a national issue and the force has been working to identify criminal gangs, protecting vulnerable people who are at risk of exploitation and enforcement and disruption activity targeting those who pose the most risk to the local community.
DG Cars' digital marketing manager, Toby Metcalf, said: "Opportunities to help the police in any way possible to tackle county line activity across Nottinghamshire is so crucial.
"We have a great chance in supporting young people and signposting them to any support services or charities that can help them as we know they use taxis to travel across the county.
"Our drivers are well versed in spotting the signs and assisting the police. There are some real tell-tale signs to look out for including seeing vulnerable children travelling alone or during school hours.
"We know young people often use taxis to travel from the city and county so it's vital we help in any way we can.
"Following a visit from police officers this week drivers now have a better understanding on where to report their worries.
"We already work closely with the force and we will continue to report anything suspicious to them to help with their work."
Detective Inspector Paul Lefford, from the force's dedicated County Lines team, said: "Vulnerable children or young people often use taxis or private hire vehicles to transport drugs or money after being exploited by gangs involved in drug crime.
"We've spent time engaging and ensuring that taxi firms across Nottinghamshire are well aware of how to spot the signs of this type of crime. We regularly work with the firms and other transport companies to help those vulnerable involved.
"County Line gangs use children to courier drugs across the county so it's important that drivers can see when children are travelling alone during unusual hours. Other signs to spot is that passengers might not have a local accent or seem unfamiliar with the local area.
"We are urging them to be aware and if they are suspicious then to call the police or Crimestoppers."
Taxi drivers are being urged to look for these signs:
Are passengers sometimes as young as 12 and travelling alone?
Are they travelling during school hours or unusual hours for a youngster to be away from home, such as early morning or very late at night?
Are they unfamiliar with the local area or do they have an accent which is not local?
Are they travelling a long distance?
Are they paying for these journeys in cash?