Play performed at West Norfolk schools warns of dangers of child criminal exploitation

Alter Ego's production of County Lines performed at King Edward VII Academy in King's Lynn. PC Paul Stanford, far left, and PC John Bolderstone with Alter Ego's Imogen Fowler, Marius Clements and Mitchell Snell.
Alter Ego's production of County Lines performed at King Edward VII Academy in King's Lynn. PC Paul Stanford, far left, and PC John Bolderstone with Alter Ego's Imogen Fowler, Marius Clements and Mitchell Snell.

Hundreds of youngsters in West Norfolk have been hearing of the consequences of drug dealing thanks to a play with a powerful message.

The play, named County Lines, was performed at King Edward VII Academy (KES) on Tuesday, with an audience of more than 200 year eight students.

According to the National Crime Agency, ‘county lines’ refers to the use of mobile phone ‘lines’ by groups to extend their drug dealing business into new locations – this almost always involves exploitation of vulnerable people.

And that is what Norfolk Police’s Safer Schools Partnership are hoping to prevent with help from this play.

So far in Norfolk, about 40 schools have hosted performances of County Lines for their Year 8 pupils, to support the police force’s Operation Gravity campaign which was launched last year.

A further 25 performances are scheduled in the county.

Operation Gravity targets the transportation of class A drugs in the county and the violent crime associated with it.

Insp Bex Brown said: “It’s going really well, we’ve had loads of positive feedback.

“We’ve had six other constabularies make enquiries as they want to take it into their schools too.

“The feedback from the children has been good as well, they have been really excited about it. The play is really engaging and interactive and it’s making them think.”

County Lines, developed by Alter Ego Creative Solutions, follows the character Dex who recruits a young boy and girl to transport ‘packages’, with the promise of high financial rewards and friendship, but events take a more sinister turn.

Insp Brown said year eight students were chosen as the target audience for the play as it is all about prevention.

She said: “It’s about making sure children make the right choices before they get involved in that.

“They might recognise friends in a similar position or they will become aware of where to go or who to speak to.”

She said the play will have been shown to in excess of 10,000 students by the time it finishes its run.

PC John Bolderstone, Safer Schools police officer for KES and King’s Lynn Academy (KLA), said it is important that this message is delivered at an early stage.

“It is important to teach young people that certain decisions have consequences.”

Speaking before the performance at KES, principal Lloyd Brown said: “I think it will have quite a significant impact on the children.

“They might not necessarily have thought about it before, but it’s very powerful. This is a really valuable experience for the students.”

If you believe a child could be at risk of criminal exploitation, contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.