THREE men have been arrested on suspicion of recruiting a 13-year-old boy to handle drugs for them in Rotherham.
The Rotherham men, aged 21, 22 and 23, were arrested yesterday (Wednesday) under suspicion of conspiracy to supply class A drugs, and trafficking for the purposes of exploitation under section 2 of the Modern Slavery Act.
Police said the arrests were part of a proactive, targeted investigation into a crackdown on child criminal exploitation (CCE) within organised crime.
“Officers believe the men had recruited a 13-year-old boy to supply drugs for them in Rotherham,” said a police spokeswoman.
CCE, also known as county lines, involves children being recruited by members of organised crime groups (OCGs) to sell and deal drugs on their behalf, and sometimes travel around a county, or across to other counties to do so.
“Safeguarding is now in place for the 13-year-old,” she added.
“All three men have been released under investigation as enquiries continue.”
Leading the investigation, Det Insp Nikki Leach said: “We are determined here in Rotherham to take positive action to tackle all organised crime groups, especially those who are responsible for the exploitation of children.
“These young people often do not know they’re being exploited. At such an impressionable time in their lives, they deserve protection from those who may prey on their vulnerabilities for considerable financial gain.
“There are some key signs to spot when it comes to CCE. Please take time to research them, and speak to your children if you have any concerns about their behaviour or whereabouts — it could make a massive difference.”
If you have concerns about CCE, contact police on 101 or speak to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Follow #CountyLines on Twitter for more updates.