'Tragic situation' - children as young as 12 arrested over drug supply
PUBLISHED: 10:12 13 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:29 13 October 2019
More than 40 children have been arrested in Suffolk this year on suspicion of drug dealing, leading to calls for us to take a "collective responsibility" for protecting the youngest and most vulnerable members of our community.
The shocking figures, which show one of the 41 arrested was just 12, were revealed in following a freedom of information request submitted to Suffolk police.
The figures are based on arrests between January and August 2019, and are expected to rise before the end of the year.
The 12-year-old was arrested on suspicion of being in possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply, while other arrests were done so on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of a controlled drug, amongst other crimes.
In total, 251 minors (aged under 18) have been arrested on suspicion of drug dealing offences since 2015, with 98 of those being charged.
Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said the figures reveal a "tragic situation".
Mr Passmore said: "I find it very sad to think children as young as 12 are getting caught up in the illegal drugs trade - it really is a tragic situation.
"It is very sad reflection on our society that we need to talk to primary school children about something as dark as illicit drugs. It is heart-breaking that this is necessary, but sadly the evidence shows we need to.
"Parents, carers, teachers, police, local authorities and health professionals - we all need to take collective responsibility to protect our young people from this escalating problem. It cannot just be down to the police to enforce - in my mind by the time a child gets to that point it is sadly too often, too late."
It is not known how many of those children arrested were caught up in the county lines sphere, which sees drug gangs from big cities travel into smaller, rural towns - often exploiting children and using violence to drive out local dealers.
An NSPCC spokesman said: "The increased number of children coerced into 'county lines' is a cause for concern as these situations always involve risk when moving drugs and weapons for the benefit of others, and they can face serious punishments and repercussions if caught.
"We must be clear that young people who are criminally exploited are victims of child trafficking, and need access to appropriate support to ensure their safety."
Care for children is available 24/7 via Childline on 0800 1111, or visit their website.