£700,000 funding boost for scheme aimed at tackling child exploitation by drug gangs

The successful bid by Norfolk PCC Lorne Green will be used to support the county's Multi-Agency Chil

The successful bid by Norfolk PCC Lorne Green will be used to support the county's Multi-Agency Child Exploitation (MACE) Team . Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A project to tackle exploitation of young people by drug gangs has been awarded a £700,000 funding boost.

Norfolk has experienced a significant increase in serious violence associated with county lines drug dealing, with police figures showing rises in possession of weapons, knife crime, robbery and drug supply offences.

Since the launch of Operation Gravity - a Norfolk police campaign focussed on targeting county lines criminals - in December 2016, more than 800 people have been arrested, with at least 133 of those children under the age of 18.

The Home Office has made available £22m over the next two years to Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) working in partnership to respond to national increases in violent crime.

The successful bid, developed by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk with Norfolk Constabulary and Norfolk County Council, has been awarded almost £700,000 from the Home Office's Early Intervention Youth Fund.

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Norfolk's PCC Lorne Green, said: 'Child exploitation, gangs, drugs, knife crime – these are not exclusively policing issues and they will not be solved through enforcement alone.

'We're talking about societal problems; problems we all have a responsibility to play our part in addressing.

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'This project – which I'm delighted has received Home Office backing – highlights all that is good about partnership working in this county.

'By looking at the issue from root to branch and pooling skills, resources and expertise, we can disrupt the activity of those who seek to exploit our young people, safeguarding and showing our young people that their future can be so much brighter.'

The funding will be used to support the development of Norfolk's Multi-Agency Child Exploitation (MACE) Team focussed on identifying those at risk of becoming involved in county lines activity.

Over the course of a 12-month pilot, the team will work to raise awareness of the threat of child exploitation, with specialist youth workers focussing on building relationships with those vulnerable to and already engaged in county lines activity.

A pathway out programme will work to build confidence and skills in the young people, providing educational and work experiences, and raising ambitions with the aim of helping them onto an alternative path.

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