York & North Yorkshire

Yorkshire county lines boy fled home fearing for family

The mother who did not want to be identified
Image caption The mother said her son went "missing for a year on and off"

A mother has spoken of how her son ran away from home after getting caught up in the county lines drugs trade because he feared his family would be hurt.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said the 14-year-old was shown images of what would happen if he refused to sell drugs.

He was eventually taken into protective custody by North Yorkshire Police.

Her comments come as a major police operation targeted gangs exporting drugs into the spa town of Harrogate.

Criminal groups who move illegal drugs from big cities to smaller towns and villages are referred to as county lines gangs.

The boy's mother said her son believed "if he stayed away from the home, they wouldn't come here and hurt us".

"He was trying to protect his family," she said.

Image caption Police targeted six properties in connection with drug dealing between Bradford and Harrogate

The boy had started working for the Leeds-based gang to pay off his own drug debt.

"He became very reclusive and secretive and got a new group of friends, we thought it was just him being a teenager and then we went upstairs one day and he wasn't in his bed - you can imagine the fear.

"It became quite a regular occurrence then, he would be missing for four, five, six days at a time," his mother said.

He was "missing for a year on and off" and during this time he was trafficked and was stood on the door of a drug den "while people come in and place their weapons on the table".

Image caption The major police operation targeted county lines drugs gangs

She said she only found out the truth of what happened and the trauma he had been through when her son was eventually arrested.

The 14-year-old is now free of drugs and receiving counselling, she said.

"Everybody thinks it tends to be children from a bad background or a broken home and it isn't, it's anybody, it's absolutely anybody," the mother added.

Image caption The cross-border operation included detectives, digital forensic investigators and police dogs
Image copyright North Yorkshire Police
Image caption Machetes were among the items seized by police in the raids

About 70 officers from North Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Police and the National Crime Agency were involved in the operation targeting a series of addresses earlier.

North Yorkshire Police said five Bradford men aged 20, 22, 26, 29 and 37, had been taken into custody and were being questioned.

Officers recovered suspected class A drugs, £3,000 in cash, a machete, 20 mobiles phones and suspected drugs paraphernalia including scales and bags.

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