This week, Thames Valley Police is launching the True Costs campaign which aims to educate and inform people about the wider effect and impact of cocaine use.
The UK is one of the biggest consumers of cocaine in Europe and in 2018/2019 it was the most commonly seized class A drug by Thames Valley Police. The effects of the drugs market are significant and far reaching. Child exploitation is one of the true costs.
Children as young as seven in the UK are being groomed into the world of drugs. They face violence and even sexual assault when they are forced to move cocaine and other drugs. In Thames Valley specifically we have seen children as young as 12 involved in the drugs trade.
Child exploitation can start with children (those under 18 years old) being involved in situations and relationships where they receive items such as food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, gifts or money as a result of them completing a task. This ‘reward’ behaviour is then used to coerce certain activities, which can result in being criminal.
Over the coming months, Thames Valley Police will be exploring and sharing the consequences of cocaine use, including the harm being caused by buying these drugs and supporting the wider drugs market. Their first focus is child exploitation.
Through this campaign Thames Valley Police aim to reduce the number of people taking cocaine and to hit the markets which exploit children in our communities. Organised crime groups are relying on this market and Police want to drive them out of our communities, as one child facing exploitation is one too many.
Everyday officers are tackling this type of organised crime and with their partners are safeguarding vulnerable children. It is hoped that by informing the public conversation about the true costs of choosing to buy and consume cocaine, some people may choose not to do so.
If you come across anyone you believe could be a victim of child drug exploitation or a person or property which raises suspicion, please call the non-emergency Thames Valley Police number 101, make a report online or contact Crimestoppers 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111.