County council ask for heavenly help to tackle drug gangs
- Credit: Archant
A council is hoping to fight county lines drug gangs with some heavenly help.
Essex County Council's task and finish group is hoping to work with religious groups to aid their efforts in the New Year.
The group's chairman councillor Carlo Guglielmi has met several times to discuss the idea with authorities across the county and will report back on Monday, January 13.
County lines gangs force vulnerable individuals - including children as young as 11 - into trafficking drugs from large cities to rural areas.
Mr Guglielmi recently spoke to the Bishop of Colchester, Rt Rev Roger Morris, about the possibility of the church's involvement.
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He said: "We would look to work together with the Rt Rev Morris in the future and he is a fantastic bishop to engage with us.
"Essex is a county which is looking to use the resources we have and not to duplicate if we can."
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He confirmed that £70,000 of funding has been allocated to the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and he is keen for it to be well spent.
The idea is for religious groups to assist in early prevention and education alongside councils, health and voluntary bodies.
The Bishop Roger recently spoke to the councillor about the possibility of working with him at a university conference on young people and knife crime.
"I welcome councillor Guglielmi's suggestion of approaching Faith Groups and Community Groups to help tackle county lines," he said.
"He will know that I am personally and professionally committed to seeing our young people flourish and to help them live lives that are free from exploitation and violence."
He noted a recent report from charities examining cuts to children's services which halved their funding.
He added: "These dramatic cuts were inextricably linked to a rise in youth knife crime and the criminal exploitation of children by county lines gangs.
"If we as a county are truly serious about tackling issues such as county lines, then we will commit to supporting a properly funded youth service as well as strengthening those organisations like the Children's Society who already do so much in this area."