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News Report Page 7 of 12
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Merseyside Says "EYES OPEN" to Drug Gangs Grooming Our Kids

MERSEYSIDE'S Violence Reduction Partnership has launched a campaign that's asking the public to keep their 'EYES OPEN' to the signs of drug gangs grooming our county's kids, and if they see, hear or suspect anything to report it anonymously to Crimestoppers. After London, Merseyside's drug gangs are the second biggest abusers of kids, grooming kids as young as 10. The gangs groom kids by making them increasingly vulnerable, often buying the targeted kids gifts of clothes, food and bikes making the kids feel in debt to them but also making them feel part of the gang, or 'family.'  Once groomed, the kids are sent away to other parts of the UK to sell their drugs, often hundreds of miles away from home. They can go missing from homes and Schools for weeks at a time. The 'EYES OPEN' campaign has been driven by the rising numbers of kids, from all sorts of backgrounds, being abused by drug gangs in an attempt to hide criminal activity. They choose kids because they are easy to manipulate and exploit and they are less likely to be stopped by the Police saving drug gang members from being caught and reducing the risk of conviction.

'Jason,' now in his 30s, was a former drug runner at 15 when he was addicted to heroin and recognises that he was exploited by drug gangs. "You're getting attention and love but not in the right way. As a confused, vulnerable child who was heavily addicted, I didn't know what true love or care was. So I'd rather have that kind of love and care than none at all. It sounds bizarre now, but that's what I was longing for as a kid. So when there's people offering you large amounts of drugs and money, it's quite attractive to get into that. You're probably sold the lie that, 'we care about you, you're 1 of us, we'll look after you.'"

Posters and billboards will go up around Merseyside saying:- "Know what to look for. Know who to help," which will explain the signs of grooming that people need to look for and the real experiences from a kids' point of view. Superintendent Mark Wiggins, who heads up Merseyside's Violence Reduction Partnership, which has produced this campaign said:- "It's time we saw drug gangs for the abusers they are. Drug gangs are grooming kids in Merseyside every day. Grown men, and sometimes women, are grooming vulnerable kids who come from all sorts of backgrounds. They are coercing them to sell drugs, to be on the end of a phone line 24 hours a day to deliver drug orders, to store firearms and weapons, and to invade vulnerable people's homes often hundreds of miles away from their homes to help the gangs make money. Merseyside's Violence Reduction Partnership, in conjunction with a number of key partners such as Merseyside Police, Local Authorities and Schools, are asking everyone, whether a parent or not, to step up and know what the signs of grooming are. The 'EYES OPEN' campaign lists the signs of grooming so everyone can start to look out for the abuse and report it anonymously to Crimestoppers. We have also produced a booklet for Schools to help kids understand what to look for. This depraved criminal behaviour has to stop."

a Merseyside mum who has 1st hand experience of having a son be groomed by drugs gangs knows what the signs are but acknowledges that she didn't understand what was happening before it was too late:- "Initially, it was finding money that was unaccounted for, because he was only 13… the next thing was finding a mobile phone, typically a Nokia throwaway - it was found under his mattress. He was making excuses, saying it belonged to somebody, 1 of his friends, and that he'd left it in his pocket and he was going to give it back to him and things just didn't seem to add up. He was staying out late and not coming home or at his usual time. Also, not answering his own phone. Obviously now I know why. So they were like the 1st signs. But I couldn't piece it all together, so I didn't know what it was showing me at that time. It was only, unfortunately, when he was found in a drug house with cocaine and heroin, and the Police contacted me to say he'd been arrested, that I finally found out the truth."

Merseyside's Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said:- "I welcome this hard hitting campaign; the 1st by Merseyside's Violence Reduction Partnership; because it is designed to increase awareness of the criminal abuse of our children. Very often we do not notice or recognise the warning signs when a young person is being groomed for exploitation and even when we are worried we don't know what to do. We need the public's help if we are to prevent young people falling prey to the criminal gangs and I hope this campaign will enlighten and educate us all."


There are about 120 'County Lines' running from Merseyside. That means that there are 120 places outside of the county right across the UK where Merseyside drug gangs have invaded vulnerable people's home ('cuckooing') to set up the business of selling drugs with 1 of our young vulnerable kids.

County lines gangs are using social media and bulk texts to offer drugs and recruit vulnerable people.

The estimated turnover for a typical active branded line is between ₤2K and ₤5K per day - profit drives county lines.

Heroin and crack cocaine remain the most common drugs. There has been an increase in crack cocaine only users and nationally, we are seeing Fentanyl as an emerging risk within county lines since the last report.

Vulnerable people have addresses that can be used by drug dealers from where they can run their business from unnoticed by most; accommodate runners and stash drugs, cash and firearms.

The train and public transport network such as coaches is used because of the ease of use, links to other areas and because children don't drive.

Merseyside's VRP's campaign was rolled out to other counties in the North West including Lancashire and North Wales, and it has an educational booklet available as a PDF download on the campaign's website:- Eyes-Open.Co.UK where there is also the artwork and animation, which you can also see on:- OurMerseyside.Org.UK. Professionals can see further resources at:- MerseysideVRP.Com.  People can report behaviour or activity that looks or sounds like grooming to Crimestoppers; it is 100% anonymous. Report online via:- CrimeStoppers-UK.Org or on the phone:- 0800 555 111. Or, they can speak confidentially to the NSPCC for advice or guidance on 0808 800 500 their

Merseyrail and the RMT Union reach agreement on release of back dated pay awards to support Guards during Coronavirus crisis

LIVERPOOL City Region Combined Authority, Merseyrail and the RMT Union have reached agreement on the release of back dated pay awards to guards, withheld since the dispute over their roles on the City Region's new trains commenced in April 2017. The agreement was reached during talks over the weekend, brokered by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram. The dispute relates to the role of Guards on board the new fleet of trains for the Merseyrail network, which are being purchased by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, with an overall investment of half a billion pounds. The 1st new train arrived in the City Region for testing at the start of the year. Whilst this announcement does not bring the dispute to an end, all parties remain committed to on going discussions to resolve the final details. Although an agreement to end the industrial action was reached at the end of 2019, Merseyrail and the RMT are technically still in dispute until the final details of how the trains will be operated are agreed, including sign off from the Office of Road and Rail regulator. Pay award increases are usually withheld during industrial disputes, however the 3 parties agreed that the back pay, which has already been accounted for, would be released earlier than planned so as to alleviate any potential financial hardship that Guards might experience due to the Coronavirus crisis.

RMT Regional Organiser John Tilley said:- "We are working in strategic collaboration throughout the Rail industry during this crisis. RMT members are in the front line working to maintain a service across the Nation and the City Region. It is right that we support them in their efforts. RMT welcomes this decision to release back-pay that has been withheld for so long. This will help relieve any financial concerns our members families have at this difficult time."

Merseyrail Managing Director Andy Heath said:- "We recognise the impact that the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic is having on the communities we serve. This includes our Guards and their families. Whilst the current dispute between Merseyrail and the RMT still needs to be resolved, we believe that taking the step of releasing these payments to Guards in their next pay packet is the right thing to do. In uncertain times, it's important that we all pull together to keep the City Region's key workers moving."

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region, said:- "Coronavirus poses the greatest health threat in our lifetimes. People should focus on following the Public Health England advice on minimising the spread of COVID-19. For many though, there are also issues of financial security too. I don't want anybody in our region to be worried about their household income, so I am pushing the Government on matters affecting peoples' incomes, such as more support for the self employed. Locally we should do all we can to support people, so I am glad that we have been able to come to an agreement that means Merseyrail guards will receive early any back pay owed to them. During these challenging times, it is important that we all pull together and do our bit. I am happy to have helped Merseyrail and the RMT to do that here."

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