Revealed: How children in Crawley are being forced to sell drugs by violent gangs
Children as young as 14 are being sent to Crawley to sell Class A drugs on the street.
County lines gangs based in London see the children as a low risk way to sell drugs like heroin and crack cocaine, often under the threat of extreme violence.
PC Ross Sandiford is part of a dedicated team of officers who are battling ‘county lines’ drug dealing in the town.
His team were involved in a morning raid on a house in Crawley on Thursday, arresting one man on suspicion of possessing Class A drugs with intent to supply.
He said: "More and more young people from London are coming into Sussex to deal drugs.
"We have seen children from as young as 14 from London who are coming into Crawley to deal drugs."
What is county lines?
County lines is a tactic used by gangs and organised crime groups from big cities like London to send drugs out to smaller towns.
Children and vulnerable adults are often intimidated into carrying out illegal activity on their behalf, under threat of extreme violence.
Drug users in Sussex towns call a dedicated drugs line, usually located somewhere in London, and then drugs runners are dispatched to their location.
One of the most harrowing features of county lines drug dealing is violent dealers taking over the homes of vulnerable people. This is known as 'cuckooing'.
‘Very complex’ to deal with county lines operations in Crawley
PC Sandiford said: "When the runners are arrested they still have the phone line in London with all the contacts. It is very complex to deal with.
“The disruption team’s prime focus is targeting county line drug dealing within Crawley and making it a more hostile place for dealers to come whilst at the same time safeguarding children and vulnerable people who may be being exploited.
"We are seeing quite a lot of success. We have made over 80 arrests in the seven months the team has been running. 40-50 have been for Class A drug supply."