New figures obtained from The National Crime Agency reveal that Devon, along with Norfolk and Dorset, has seen some of the biggest increases in children arrested for dealing drugs, adding to fears that the County Lines gang problem is growing in the region.
Devon has seen a number of drug related deaths this year, with victims as young as fourteen dying from taking MDMA and other substances.
Nationally, hundreds of children are being used as drug pushers through the so-called County lines, a network in which regional drug dealers target young vulnerable people to carry out deals, sent by high ranking gang members in major cities such as London, Manchester and Birmingham.
The extensive nature of the gang’s networks appears to be flooding Devon with a supply, where a market that appears to be more than willing to buy awaits them.
The gangs often target children and young adults in care homes, seeking out vulnerable and impressionable victims to help conduct their deals. Devon and Cornwall police have even recruited a County Lines lead detective – Anthony Hart.
As previously reported by The Moorlander, Home Office figures show that drug misuse is on the rise in the region, with the South West being a hotspot for recreational drug use. One in nine adults has now admitted to taking drugs at some point.
The ramifications of this increase go far beyond the police cell. In 2015/16 there were 8,621 hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of drug-related mental health disorders in England.
This is a six percent increase on the previous year and eleven percent higher than in 2005/06.
The news comes after yet another successful drug-dealing conviction by Devon and Cornwall Police. Darren Morgan, 31, was arrested in a convertible Mercedes hire car, travelling back from London on the A30 close to Ottery St Mary.
They found 335 wraps of heroin and Morgan was arrested at the scene. Travelling behind in a separate vehicle was his girlfriend Georgina Galanis, 25 who was also arrested.
The judge said she was exploited as part of his plan to deal heroin across Exeter, where it is generally understood it is often sold to the homeless population of the city.