A REGION-WIDE social media campaign to bust myths about County Lines Crime warned youngsters against "the promise of a glamorous lifestyle and expensive gifts".

The Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) funded an advertising campaign on Instagram, Snapchat and other social media sites.

It featured a series of short and impactive video clips educating young people about the dangers of County Lines Crime.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) describes County Lines Crime as "where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries (although not exclusively), usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs."

In total, the campaign reached 140,000 people aged 13-17 and 1.6 million people overall.

It has been deemed a success by the ROCU and campaign partner, Fearless.org - the youth service of the independent charity Crimestoppers and a partner of the campaign.

The clips told the story of Callum and Aimee and showed the viewer signs that they had been groomed into a life of criminal (and in Aimee’s case, sexual) violence.

Viewers were also given the option at the end of the film to follow a link for further information and advice.

The campaign ran from April 7 until May 5.

Detective Inspector Mark Catney, who leads on County Lines Crime for the ROCU, said: “County Lines Crime is essentially ‘hardened’ and experienced criminals criminally and often exploiting and grooming young people to do their dirty work.

“Young people will often be taken in with the promise of a glamorous lifestyle and expensive gifts

“But all that is happening is that they are being groomed into a life of exploitation and the criminals will quickly show their true colours using physical and sexual violence to get what they want.

“Young people caught up in their web will then find they are the ones forced to commit serious crimes (usually drug dealing) whilst risking violence from other criminals and custodial sentences from the court.

“These clips help to burst the myth and hopefully steer young people in the right direction away from a life of crime.

“We specifically targeted these messages on social media outlets where we could appeal directly to young people and to educate them about the realities of being groomed.

“Our research shows that social media is used by OCGs to target young people, so we are using it as the best way to reach those most at risk. 

“If children and young people know how to spot the signs and that they or their mates are being groomed then they are less likely to be involved. That is why we developed this campaign with Crimestoppers.

“If just one person thinks twice about getting involved in the cycle of crime because of these adverts then we have made a difference 

“The campaign was about being fearless – knowing what the signs are but also having the courage to do what is right and letting people who can help know what is happening.

“Our messaging, however, doesn’t end with this campaign. We are also looking to raise awareness amongst parents, carers and professionals to educate them about the dangers of CCE (Child Criminal Exploitation) and County Lines Crime.

“We are always looking to use the most appropriate ways of reaching people and embracing platforms such as the social media outlets we used in this campaign. Criminals are always changing what they do – and we must therefore act accordingly.

“This campaign alone reached almost 140,000 people aged 13-17 and 1.6 million people overall.

"Those people now have the information and knowledge to guard against this cynical criminality.” 

Signs to look out for that a young person could be involved in CCE:

•    A sudden change in attitude, they become secretive or disrespectful.
•    They start making lots of repeat journeys without any real explanation.
•    Evidence of travelling to places they wouldn’t normally go for example used bus or train tickets
•    They go missing and are found in areas away from home
•    They have more money and can afford expensive items such as phones/ designer clothes
•    Their appearance may change. They could be wearing new designer clothes or the opposite appear dirty and disheveled
•    They could appear to have lots of new friends who are possibly older.
•    They become distant and there could be signs of harm of depression and they start missing school