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County lines drug gangs 'targeting children' in Dover say parents

By Rachael Woods

Drug dealers from urban areas are "targeting children" in a coastal town according to parents who have formed a group to keep their children safe.

Families United has pulled together the mums and dads of troubled teens in Dover who may be vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous gangs, at risk of misusing drink and drugs, or excluded from school.

It is particularly combating so-called county lines drug operations, where organised criminals in big cities spread their dealing network by forcing vulnerable young people to shift their gear.

"The dealers are here in Dover targeting children" says Families United
"The dealers are here in Dover targeting children" says Families United

Families United spokesman Jackie Mcallister said: "It's not just a problem in big cities like London or Manchester.

"The dealers are here in Dover targeting children."

The mum of three says the group is needed more than ever with the rise of "county lines" drug-dealing.

She said: "Problems with teenagers or younger children can happen to any family regardless of background and families are usually supported by social services, or other outside agencies.

"But the support ends at 5pm on Friday and doesn't start until 9am on a Monday. In the meantime parents have no one to talk to or get advice from."

Last week, KentOnline's sister paper the Dover Mercury published an interview with a woman who said her son had been recruited in a park by a drugs gang last year when he was 15.

Jackie Mcallister who narrowly missed being shot in the head by an air gun peller (3459708)
Jackie Mcallister who narrowly missed being shot in the head by an air gun peller (3459708)

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said he has since left the group but others are trapped if they fall into debt to dealers.

Kent Police has arrested, charged and removed a number of "county lines" offenders from the town.

Families United have now secured a meeting place Dover's Charlton Shopping Centre.

Parents needing help were able to turn up and discuss problems without an appointment.

Families United has been in touch with London-based St Giles Trust that offers support to youngsters at risk of being recruited by gangs.

Jackie said members had been impressed with activities on offer to young people including making their own videos and music, as well as having chill-out zones to relax.

"Times have changed and youth clubs need to be more than a place for a game of pool. If kids have activities that are right for them they will make it their own space and show respect," she said.

Jackie added: "There's not very much for kids to do in Dover so a lot of them just hang out in Pencester Gardens."

Families Reunited recently received a community grant of £694 from Dover District Council to promote its work.

The group meets at the Dover Big Local hub at the Charlton and also offers help to families of teenage runaways and those involved in anti-social behaviour or prone to violent outbursts.

To get in contact with Families United search Facebook for familiesunited2018 or email familiesunited2018@gmail.com

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