Taxi drivers are vital members of every community and are often in a position to see and hear things that would help the police. Taxi drivers in Southend are now taking part in a new training course designed to spot signs of child exploitation. The scheme is aimed to crack down on ‘county lines’ activity and is now a requirement to hold a taxi licence in the area.
‘County lines’, or criminal exploitation is when gangs or networks groom and exploit children to sell drugs. These gangs target innocent and inexperienced children who can be as young as 7 by enticing them in with gifts like clothing, trainers and phones. These children are then forced to use dedicated mobile phone ‘lines’ to supply drugs and often made to travel to different cities and even outside the county. Once children become involved, the gangs then become violent and almost impossible for their young victims to escape from.
The course to identify exploitation, which has been developed by taxi drivers and members of the child services team at the council who have in-depth knowledge of how kids can be drawn into the drug gangs, is designed to identify warning signs of this kind of behavior and to provide clear information on the correct procedure to report findings. There will then be further training rolled out to help create 100 community champions in other industries who are in similar positions to identify risky behaviours – such as teachers, charity workers or those who work in healthcare
Important Link in the Chain
Director of Public Protection Carl Robinson is very appreciative of the taxi drivers who have been involved this far. They join the likes of local police, educational staff and employees within the medical field who are already on the lookout for key signs of child exploitation. Carl states: “They are an important link in our chain and their vigilance and reporting of the signs they may see as they go about their job will help keep our children safe”.
Carol Compton, Head of Service for Early Help, Family Support and Youth Offending Services, explains that and often gangs target kids who they think are less likely to be arrested. As taxi drivers you could be looking out for some of the key signs as described by Carol: “Signs include children being befriended by older controlling adults and changing their usual friendship groups, receiving new clothes and gadgets, and then going missing from school or home”.
More information on the signs can be found at https://www.southend.gov.uk/seethesigns.
It’s great to see the taxi trade playing such an important role in the local community. If you are interested in becoming a taxi driver or are looking for a new standard taxi or black cab please visit cabdirect.com. Make sure and visit our our Facebook and Twitter pages.