Police in Aylesbury's region warn of gangs offering drugs to children disguised as sweets

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The sweets are used as a means to get the children on board and carrying out illegal activities

Police operating in Aylesbury's region have warned of gangs using drugs disguised as sweets to entice children into working for their illegal organisations.

A report from the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) states it received almost 150 intelligence reports of such cases.

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The drug being offered is edible cannabis, the figures were taken from a six-month sample last year.

Police recorded nearly 150 instances of this form of exploitation in just six monthsPolice recorded nearly 150 instances of this form of exploitation in just six months
Police recorded nearly 150 instances of this form of exploitation in just six months

Police are concerned the trend could be on the rise and that this strategy could become common among organised criminal gangs.

Particularly among gangs operating on the county lines, which police define as illegal drug distribution organised via telephone communication.

Often county line dealing involves moving product out of big cities into country towns and villages, between gangs.

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An ERSOU spokesman warned: "Cannabis edibles are laced with mood altering ingredients which can cause side effects such as the loss of consciousness or coordination, hallucinations, nausea/ vomiting, lethargy, and heart problems."

Edibles are also listed as an illegal class B drug, so anyone carrying or using the sweet-like substances risks arrest and prosecution.

Detective Inspector Kelly Gray, from the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit said: “We are starting to see an increase in the use of cannabis edibles by county lines groups, and are concerned about the groups enticing young people into working for them by supplying them with cannabis edibles before going onto exploit them, using them to carry out a wide range of criminal activity, including acting as couriers to ferry drugs from one area to another.

“The edibles themselves are also dangerous. The illicit manufacture of such sweets means production is unregulated and thus levels of potency can vary, not to mention there being a high chance other harmful substances are mixed in.

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"The fact that these sweets are also commonly supplied in packs, and that they can take longer than other cannabis products to start to take effect, means the potential for accidental overdose is highly likely, particularly in young people unaware of the dangers.

“We’re asking parents in particular to be aware of these products and look twice at any sweets or chocolates their children may have in their possession, as well as being alert to the signs that children may be involved in county drugs line activity.

“We’d also continue to encourage anyone with information about drug dealing activity in their local community to report it.

"All information is vital in helping us to build an intelligence picture across the region so we can then take appropriate enforcement action and protect people from further harm.”

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Police want parents to look out for the following signs that show children might be getting exploited by a gang:

-Changes in mood or demeanour (i.e. acting secretive and withdrawn)

-Changes in the way they dress

-Unexplained or unaffordable new items such as clothes, jewellery, or trainers

-Regularly going missing for long periods of time or staying out late with no explanation

-Unexplained absences from school

-Carrying lots of cash

-A new phone or being in possession of more than one phone

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Anyone with evidence relating to cannabis edibles is encouraged to contact the police via the their local forces website or by calling 101.

Drug dealing activity can be reported anonymously on n 0800 555 111 or through crimestoppers-uk.orgAn ERSOU spokesman said: If your child has just taken an edible and you are worried about the effect it is having on them, call 111. If it is an emergency situation, for example if your child has lost consciousness, call 999 immediately.

More information on edibles is available on the ERSOU website here.

For more details about child criminal exploitation is provided on The Children's Society's website here.