One of my primary missions as policing minister is to put drug gangs out of business, and I wanted to update you on progress. Sadly, these gangs are often using children to transport Class A drugs on train routes into places like Andover and Basingstoke, in what’s known as County Lines.

Since 2019, we’ve invested over £65 million with the police, which has resulted in the closure of more than 1,500 lines and more than 7,400 arrests. Whilst the BTP and Hampshire Police are doing an excellent job in going after the criminals, (I’ve seen for myself on operations at Basingstoke and Andover Stations), I am equally proud of the 4,000-odd people — mainly children — that have been rescued from the exploitation and violence that comes with County Lines.

Sadly, we are seeing vulnerable young people often brutalised into this dreadful business and taken advantage of through promises of status and wealth. I recently discussed this with The Children’s Society on my community podcast and the important message from our conversation was that kids are being exploited all around us, and we can all help spot the signs in our day to day lives — whether we are parents, carers, commuters, businesses, or just passers-by.

Some of the tell-tale signs to look out for include sudden changes in behaviour, kids making older friends, perhaps they are skipping school, are in possession of a lot of cash, or they are travelling late at night. If something doesn’t feel right, go with your gut instinct, and let the police know.

Listen to my full conversation on tackling drug crime with the BTP and The Children’s Society on The Maltcast available in all the usual places such as Apple and Spotify.