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Young Islington children arrested in South Wales in escalation of “county lines”

Shocking claim was revealed by police officer Istarlin Said-Ali at a conference examining knife crime

01 February, 2019 — By Emily Finch

PC Charlie Mutuku, left, and PC Istarlin Said-Ali

YOUNG children from the borough were arrested in places as far away as South Wales, Cornwall and Somerset during the past year in a worrying escalation of “county lines” gangs.

The shocking claim was revealed by police officer Istarlin Said-Ali at a conference examining knife crime at the Town Hall on Monday.

PC Said-Ali told the meeting: “They get to these places through trains, hire cars and taxis. They are placed in houses to sell drugs. These kids go missing from home for days and you [parents] won’t be able to get in contact with them because they have their phones taken away.”

Representations being made at Islington Town Hall

She added: “We arrested children from Islington in South Wales, Devon and Cornwall, Somerset, Lancashire, Sussex, Essex, Kent, Norfolk, Lincoln- shire, this is just a few.”

PC Said-Ali is a response officer in the borough and was speaking at the meeting organised by Islington Somali Forum to offer parents advice on how to prevent their children from being trafficked.

County lines is the term used for when gang leaders traffic young children out of their area to carry drugs hundreds of miles away.

“You need to look out for the warning signs. If they run away it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a problem at home.

Sexualised behaviour, tiredness, association with gang members, unexplained train or bus tickets, signs of assault, new clothes – these are all signs,” she said.

Speaking after the meeting to the Tribune, Cllr Rakhia Ismail, who represents Holloway Road, said she had seen dozens of mothers at her surgery in recent years worried about their children being trafficked into selling drugs.

“Children need role models in schools and youth centres in every walk of life that will make the difference for them to not join gangs,” she said.

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