Video report by ITV News Meridian's Cary Johnston
New figures show British Transport Police have made more than 1000 arrests, and seized more than 500 stashes of drugs related to County Lines crime, since 2019.
County Lines is where gangs use children and young people to traffic drugs, using dedicated mobile phones or "lines", into new locations outside of their home areas.
An operation led by British Transport Police at Winchester station led to 17 searches, with 7 of those stopped found to be in possession of drugs.
We see young people travelling primarily out of cities, travelling long distances, using the railway network, coming into towns and cities, and often coastal areas, to provide drugs and they're actually being criminally exploited and some of these individuals are as young as 13 years old.
Children's charities say it is important that children involved are treated as victims, and that parents and guardians become more aware of the signs of grooming. These can include:
Missing episodes - being gone late at night or early in the mornings or for longer periods of time
Carrying lots of cash/ having unexplained money or expensive items
Making more calls or sending more messages/ having more than one phone
Staying out late or travelling for unexplained reasons
Becoming angry or aggressive
Spending more time on social media and being secretive about time online
Unexplained injuries and refusing to seek medical help
If you are worried that your child might be involved in county lines operations, below are links to charities with experience in helping young people.