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Child exploitationGangs

New service to tackle County Lines launched in Kent

A young woman with a ponytail checks her phone whilst walking through a forest.

Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, has launched a new service in Kent, designed to prevent vulnerable young people falling victim to things like exploitation and county line drug gangs.

Kent has seen a decline in the number of County Lines gangs operating over the last six years from a one-time high of 80 to 37 in spring 2022. However, Kent’s proximity to both London and the coast means it will always be targeted by those seeking to exploited and abuse.

Because of that, Catch22 has been employed to provide one-to-one specialist support for youngsters who’ve been victims of this sort of abuse and exploitation across Kent and Medway. With an equal focus on prevention and protection, the service will provide confidential and independent mentoring to prevent repeat incidences of serious violence, criminal exploitation, or gang association.

The PCC, Matthew Scott, said:

“I’m delighted to welcome Catch22 to Kent and Medway. Protecting people from exploitation and harm is a priority in my new Police and Crime Plan. If we fail young people, we not only create problems for the future, but we waste potential talent. I’m hoping that with the intervention services Catch22 provide, we will help support and provide opportunities for vulnerable young people across the county.”

The service will work in partnership with Kent Police and the Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs). Victims’ families will also be supported through the process.

Catch22 Senior Services Manager, Marc Stevens, said:

“County lines, child exploitation, and children missing from home are inextricably linked. It is so important that local communities are supported to understand how missing incidences, serious online harms, or carrying weapons affect young peoples’ susceptibility to exploitation.

“The last couple of years have been particularly tough on children and young people so we are really looking forward to building on the success of our nationally recognised youth violence prevention work and bringing our support to the Kent region.”

Catch22 delivers services aiming to prevent young people from being further victimised by County Lines or criminal exploitation across Merseyside, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, and the West Midlands.

The new service will launch on July 1st, 2022 and will support children and young people up to the age of 25.