London Gangs Using Children As Drug Mules
Rampant poverty and a sagging economy have led children as young as 11-years-old to help smuggle crack and heroin.
London has become an unlikely source for child drug mules as gangs are beginning to use children as young as 11 years old to expand their power into the towns and countryside surrounding the city. Kevin Moore, intelligence manager for the south-east regional organized crime unit, confirmed that they had evidence young children were running guns and drugs for veteran gang members, although most of the mules ranged between 16-24 years old.
"There have been incidents where young people were found with large-ish quantities of crack, cocaine and other class A drugs. We see young people asked to courier class A drugs to wherever the market is,” said Moore. "Often those carrying the drugs are not running the operation. In that sense it is similar to a mule situation where the risk is taken away from the elder [members] who can behave with impunity with less risk of getting caught."
A 16-year-old boy was busted for drug smuggling last August in the town of Gillingham, while a similarly aged London boy pleaded guilty that same month to possession of ammunition and possession with intent to supply class A drugs. "It's very much a phenomenon of the last five years and although we're not talking about a massive deluge of cases, it's noticeable,” said an anonymous solicitor. "It appears these kids are below the radar, chosen because they are usually clean. In the main they seem fairly respectable – their families sit in the back of court utterly lost for words."
Moore said that girls are also being used as drug mules, but fall victim to sexual abuse from the gang members as well. But the growing problem of child drug mules is largely due to a sagging economy and rampant poverty, something which arresting these children fails to address. "We are arresting these young people but not tackling the conditions that leave them vulnerable. We are dealing with the symptoms and not the cause,” said John Pitts, an expert on gangs. “There will always be a stubborn cohort who need additional support, and if that is not being offered by the state then it will be offered by someone who is not at all interested in the betterment of society."