‘No-one wants to sit there with cocaine up their a**e’ warns boy

The brutal reflections of an exploited 15-year-old boy have been turned into a powerful warning to those on the edges of crime.

Aaron's message – that "no-one wants to sit there with cocaine up their a**se" – forms part of a campaign highlighting the perils of County Lines drug dealing.

The blunt quote is being used to warn vulnerable children of the dangers of exploitation.

County Lines drug dealing has emerged as a major issue across the UK in recent years.

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The practice is dominated by big city drugs gangs who set up networks in other areas, often by sending their own dealers to operate on the frontline.

Those dealers tend to be vulnerable teens manipulated by older criminals who exploit their desire for friendship, protection or money.

But any promises of riches are lies designed to send youngsters onto the streets to do the dirty work for those further up the chain.

Courts from Carlisle to Cornwall have heard tragic tales of boys from Merseyside sent miles from home to live with strangers and risk their safety and freedom as they peddle drugs on unfamiliar territory.

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Aaron's message – which alludes to how street dealers and couriers often hide drugs when they fear they may be searched – is one of several phrases used by the Eyes Open campaign.

Designed to raise awareness of the child criminal exploitation, the organisation's website explains: "Criminal gangs look for vulnerable people they can control.

"They groom young people under the age of 18, teenagers and young children.

"You might think you, your friend or the young person in your community is in control of their choices.

"However, if you see any of the signs mentioned on this website, you or they could be in danger."

Those signs include:

  • They have new, unexplained gifts
  • Receiving excessive calls or messages from new and unknown "friends"
  • Unexplained amounts of cash
  • Getting picked up or dropped by cars by unknown people
  • They have unexplained bus or train tickets
  • Mixing with older men or women
  • Coming home late, or not at all
  • Carrying a knife, gun or other weapon – or storing them
  • Trying to conceal bruises, marks or injuries
  • Self-harm or significant changes in emotional wellbeing

Merseyside Police has shared links to the campaign, which Lancashire and North Wales Police forces are also involved with, over recent days in attempts to raise awareness.

The messaging comes after British Transport Police officers were at Liverpool Lime Street Station on Monday to try and disrupt dealers using the city's major transport hub to coordinate their illegal trade.

Plain-clothes detectives patrolled the station and the busy Huyton interchange to try and spot and apprehend criminals.

They were also looking out for vulnerable children being exploited and forced to ferry around drugs.

On the rail network, BTP officers have come across children as young as 11 being exploited, and their youngest arrest was aged 14.

Vulnerable adults are also targeted by manipulative gangs, with addicts who fall into debt among those who are then exploited.

Some have their homes taken over by gangs looking for a base in their target markets in a process known as cuckooing.

A BTP officer on patrol during a County Lines operation

Cheshire Police today announced they had identified a number of such victims and offered them safeguarding support as part of a new initiative.

The force said police officers and partner agencies – including housing associations, social care and drug support services – are working together to protect those at risk from criminals who use violence and threats to gain access to their home.

A total of 30 adults have now received support from the force.

Detective Inspector Eleanor Atkinson, who is in charge of the operation, said: "Some of the cases I have seen are truly heart breaking and I can’t begin to imagine how terrifying it must be for those living in fear in their own home."

*You can visit the Eyes Open campaign website here