?As part of National Licensing Week which took place from 18th to 22nd June 2018, a reminder of the Home Office campaign to help taxi and private hire vehicle staff identify and safeguard victims of ‘County Lines’.
To help safeguard vulnerable children and protect them from gangs, the Home Office, Institute of Licensing and Crimestoppers are working to increase awareness among taxi and private hire vehicle drivers, and licensing staff, of the signs to spot a potential victim.
Thousands of children and teenagers - some as young as 12 - are being exploited by criminal gangs to carry drugs from urban areas to coastal and market towns. Many of these children travel between the city and rural towns in taxis or private hire vehicles in a criminal activity known as ‘county lines’.
Children may make the whole journey between the city and rural town in a private hire vehicle or taxi, or else use one for part of the journey.
The signs to spot are:
• A child, normally 14-15 years old, but can be as young as 12 travelling a long train journey alone.
• They may be from another area, so may not be familiar with an area (may look lost) and may have a distinct urban accent.
• They may be travelling during school hours or unusual hours (e.g. late in the evening).
• An obvious relationship with controlling, older individuals.
• Suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries.
• Excessive receipt of texts or phone calls.
The Home Office has produced posters to help taxi and private hire vehicle drivers and booking staff recognise the signs to spot potential victims.
Taxi drivers who spot a vulnerable young person should report their concerns to Crime-stoppers. This is just one part of the wider work the Home Office is doing to tackle ‘county lines’, as is set out in the new Serious Violence Strategy which includes:
• Providing funding to establish the new National County Lines Co-ordination Centre to co-ordinate the police and wider law enforcement response to tackle county lines
• Continuing to work with the Crown Prosecution Service and national police lead on the prosecution of county lines cases
• Undertaking awareness-raising activity to help young and vulnerable people understand how to avoid becoming involved and exploited by County Lines gangs
A petition calling for Erewash cabbies to be allowed to have fully-tinted windows in their taxis has been rejected over fears that vehicles could be used to enable the abuse of vulnerable children and adults.