Children could be exploited due to cost-of-living crisis, officer warns
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
The cost-of-living crisis could expose a number of children in Suffolk to criminality, a senior police officer has warned.
There is a potential risk that some children in the county could be vulnerable to mental health crises or criminal exploitation as families grapple with financial hardship, Assistant Chief Constable Rob Jones said.
ACC Jones told the Suffolk police and crime commissioner's accountability and performance panel that it "shouldn't be a surprise" if the force has to put more resources into policing gang activity this summer.
"We are planning for the cost of living crisis, and the situation where a lot of children have been isolated from school for a couple of years in support, could mean this summer that a number of young people could be vulnerable to mental health crises, exploitation to criminality, to violence, and to exploitation," he said.
"This paper describes all the different ways that we try to prevent that from happening. I just raise that in our summer plans when young people will be getting out and about much more, we shouldn't be surprised if we see that we have to put a lot more resource to counter things like gangs and other problems."
At Friday's meeting, ACC Jones also highlighted the force's recent success in tackling county lines drug dealing through Operation Orochi in collaboration with the Metropolitan Police but stressed there is "no room for complacency".
"We've had tremendous success in tackling county lines," he said.
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"We've got all the structures in place to continue to do that work, but there is certainly intelligence to show that in Suffolk, as across the UK, that won't disappear.
"The main tactic we use, which is a very powerful and successful one, is Operation Orochi and it's about using officer expertise, particularly from London, working in partnership with Suffolk to identify where those drugs are travelling and the young people who are involved in them.
"When we started two or three years with a strong, focused look at county lines, we had a number of high-risk county lines with lots of exploitation, quite a high number of medium-risk ones, and really significant low-risk numbers.
"As we stand, we have no risk high-risk lines, I think one medium-risk and single figures in low-risk.
"What I wanted to highlight here is that there's just no room for complacency and the intelligence is working really hard to work out where the new risks might be rising and we'll take those steps through the partnership to make sure we stay absolutely on top of them."