A CHARITY is urging people to ‘speak out’ and help protect vulnerable residents from violent drug gangs in Warwickshire.
Crimestoppers has launched a campaign to highlight damage done to communities by criminal gang networks.
Vulnerable people including addicts, young people and those with mental health issues can be exploited to sell drugs, sexually abused or forced into prostitution.
The gangs have a reputation for using violence, importing and selling drugs, abusing victims of human trafficking, and intimidating and controlling neighbourhoods.
The ‘speak up, stay safe’ campaign aims to bring together organisations including housing providers, hotels, taxi and car leasing companies to look out for potential victims and unusual behaviour.
Charity spokeswoman Pauline Hadley said: “Our charity believes everyone has the right to feel safe, wherever they live.
“Serious organised crime gangs devastate lives and have a truly negative effect on the communities where they operate.
“Our charity guarantees that you are the only one that will ever know you contacted us. Speak up and help protect your community.”
It is estimated that there are more than 80 serious organised crime groups covering the West Midlands including Warwickshire.
Warwickshire Police recently pledged to tackle the organised drug crime known as ‘county lines’ in which city dealers move into the homes of vulnerable people – often drug users – to deal at street level.
A number of recent raids have resulted in dozens of arrests, the seizure of thousands of pounds in cash, and large quantities of drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Weapons such as machetes and a Samurai sword have also been recovered.
But despite police operations the threat from ‘county lines’ remains in Warwickshire and officers say they will not let up the fight against them.
Ch Insp Chishty told The Observer: “While we have had a lot of success in making arrests and disrupting networks, the sad thing in this territory is that you disrupt one network then somebody else emerges – it’s a constant battle but that does not deter efforts – we will keep going.
“My message is clear. We will focus on those people determined to cause harm in our communities through the sale and exploitation of vulnerable people and will take measures to identify those people responsible and take positive action.”
Anyone with information can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org to fill out an online form.