• County Lines

Child Exploitation Pt 1

I watched in fascinated horror, at the revolving door of child exploitation victims that were dumped in my flat to work as runners for the gang. I was particularly baffled by the willing and eager attitude of these young teenagers. They idolised the gang members, and were willing to go to any lengths to please them. I simply couldn’t comprehend it.

That was until a gang member; wasted from drink and high from the effects of weed- had become cocksure and loose lipped. He bragged in great detail to me how these young teenagers were recruited. My confusion about the reasons for their loyalty, willingness and dedication quickly became clear to me.

So when a newly recruited 13 year-old boy was introduced to me as the gangs new runner, the risk to the kids life took precedence over mine. I was the adult and he was the minor. He took priority. Standard.

I knew this 13 year-old boy was almost certainly a runaway- most likely from the authorities or a children’s home. Their young age means they haven’t factored in money for travel, food and clothes. Not until they are wondering around the streets in the dark, on their own. Hungry, cold, with nowhere to go.

Put yourself in that 13 year olds shoes.

You are approached by a lad of an age so perfectly suited to the big brother you always wanted. He’s dressed head to toe in designer clothes, with a look of worry and concern on his face. He’s gesturing to the McDonald’s across the road; which looks so warm and inviting. He casually dismisses your worries about money; telling you he’ll pay for the food. He even offers to sit with you while you get the weight of the world off your shoulders.

Would you decline the offer? Continue stumbling around in the dark, on aching legs. Doubled over with hunger pains. Wearing a hand me down tracksuit; so flimsy the cold bites at your skin?

You sit down opposite the older lad in McDonald’s. In awe of the designer clothes. Jealous of the wads of cash stuffed inside his wallet, which you caught a glimpse of when he paid for the food. His mobile phone rings relentlessly; the manner in which he addresses each caller makes you realise they are all his friends. You’re filled with envy.

You can only dream of a life where you have freedom, security, choices, respect and loyalty.

Now imagine that you are offered that on a plate. Imagine the lad who took you to McDonald’s, offers you the life you crave…

Would you turn it down?

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