1. ITV Report

Crackdown on gangs targeting vulnerable people

South Wales Police says it wants to protect not punish vulnerable people targeted by gangs Credit: PA

Organised crime groups exploiting vulnerable children and adults will be met by a 'hostile environment' in South Wales, Police say.

Calling it an 'emerging national issue' South Wales Police says it is cracking down on crime groups looking to extend their drug dealing business.

Working with partner agencies, the force says gangs from urban areas such as London, Liverpool and Birmingham put children and vulnerable adults between themselves and the risk of detection by manipulating them into carrying and selling drugs. ‘Runners’ will be sent across county boundaries to areas like Swansea and Cardiff to deliver and/or sell Class A drugs at the other end of the line.

‘Operation Guardian’ aims to identify the vulnerable people who are potentially coerced and forced into committing crime by the urban gangs, and to put in measures in place that 'protect not punish them'.

Assistant Chief Constable Jon Drake, South Wales Police, said:

Our number one priority is to protect vulnerable people, and this includes the children, who can be as young as 12 years old, and the vulnerable adults who are ruthlessly exploited by urban gangs to do their dirty work.

Any child or vulnerable adult can be affected and it’s important to recognise that is can still be exploitation, even if the activity appears consensual.

– South Wales Police, Assistant Chief Constable Jon Drake

Evan Jones, Head of Community Services at St Giles Trust, a charity who is working with South Wales Police to identify and support young people linked to county lines criminality, said:

These gangs are very clever and can quickly trap a vulnerable person into committing crime. This will may be through coercion initially, but will often escalate to violence to ensure that they remain compliant.

Low level runners and gang members are seen as expendable and easy to replace, and so their physical and mental wellbeing is of no concern to the urban gang.

– St Giles Trust, Evan Jones

Assistant Chief Constable Jon Drake adds:

Ultimately our aim is to make south Wales a hostile environment for organised crime groups, preventing all forms of harm associated with these gangs.

This will be achieved by taking a holistic approach, continuing our robust enforcement campaign where we disrupt their drug dealing business alongside holding them to account for the exploitation that they perpetrate.

– South Wales Police, Assistant Chief Constable Jon Drake