'I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy' - Parents lift the lid on the damage county lines does to families

"They're violating my child. I actually want to go rip their faces off."

"I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy."

These are just some of the words of a group of parents who feel compelled to speak out after their children became caught up county lines gangs - where children or vulnerable people are groomed and controlled into selling drugs by organised crime groups.

Understandably, many families are too frightened to speak out, but these families spoke to ITV News in a bid to help lift the lid on the chilling crime which is sweeping across the UK.

"I'd quite often find knives in his bedroom, screwdrivers... he said it was for protection," one mother said.

Another said she would not wish what she and her family had been through "on my worst enemy".

Dawn feared her son would never return home. Credit: ITV News

The anguish and fear that county lines puts families through was explained by Dawn: "Every night I was wondering if he would come home, if I would have to report him missing.

"If he was at home, I would be hiding his trainers.

"It's all you think about when you wake up in the morning, it's all you think about all night."

All the families who spoke to ITV News did not give their surnames in a bid the protect the identities of their children.

The situation got so bad for Jo's family that the police fitted panic alarms in their home: "Our house was raided and quite a lot of drugs were found.

"They were worried about the repercussions of that to our family.

"I've got two other children - two young daughters - so they had to be taught how to use them."

The parents hope other families will not have to go through what they have gone through. Credit: ITV News

As well as grooming the children who run drugs, gangs often rob them so that they are in debt to the group and fearful of what will happen if the money is not repaid.

Steve told how he saw his son "thrown into the back of a car and driven off at speed, and then when he comes back into the house and says: 'If I don't pay, I'm going to be hurt.'

"What do you do?"

"You want to look after your children the best you can," Steve added.

"You want to be there for them.

"I've tried talking to him, but when they're involved in this, it's sort of like a shield going up, you lose a bit of them."

Steve said he tried to talk to his son about what had happened, but 'a shield went up'. Credit: ITV News

The parents ITV News spoke to say the criminals who exploited their children have been arrested and some of their children have escaped from the terrible world they were trapped in.

While these children may be some of the lucky ones, the continuing growth of county lines is still a reality for thousands of children around the country.