Newmarket parents warned over County Lines drug gangs danger
Parents from Newmarket were among the hundreds who attended a meeting in Bury St Edmunds on Monday called in the wake of growing fears of youngsters falling prey to County Lines drugs gangs.
The meeting was organised by headteachers and principals from 10 schools and colleges in the town, including St Benedict’s Catholic School, King Edward VI School and County Upper School, which attract students from Newmarket, as well as Abbeygate Sixth Form, and West Suffolk College.
It came in the wake of a shocking national newspaper article which told the story of 17-year-old former County Upper pupil Kieran Hayward, who was jailed for life for murder last month after an apparent revenge attack for a drugs theft.
According to his mother, Hayward had started selling drugs at 13 and by the time he was 15 was dealing in Newmarket and living in a drugs den in the town.
His school had been heavily criticised by Ofsted in January for ‘safeguarding weaknesses’.
Mrs Hayward told the Daily Mail: “These children are easy pickings. The signs were there time and time again that Kieran was being groomed but they still did nothing. I put too much trust in the authorities. They let him and us down.”
At the meeting one mother said she felt the ‘saddest part’ of the story was that there seemed to be ‘no help and no hope’ for him.
But West Suffolk’s senior police officer,Superintendent Kim Warner, insisted that was not the case and the police were constantly working with support teams and other agencies to get young people the help they needed.
And he said good parenting was not ‘rocket science’ and urged parents not to be afraid to ask intrusive questions and to be on the look out for signs their children were beinglured in by drug gangs, like being in possession of unexplained amounts of cash or designer clothing.
He told them West Suffolk was now an area County Lines gangs were focusing on as cities like London became saturated with drugs and it was estimated between 20 and 25 County Lines operations were now active, or on the verge of being active, in the area.
“This is challenging but there is no way we are going to give up on children who get embroiled in this,” he said.
Parents had to be turned away because of lack of space, were assured a further meeting was going to be arranged.