HEROIN and cocaine peddling teens – one as young as 14 – have been collared by Wigan Police for serious drug offences.
A total of 15 under 18s have been arrested for either supplying or possession with intent across the borough in the last three years.
The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show that class A substances such as heroin and crack cocaine in addition to cannabis and other class B and class C drugs were the cause of the arrests.
In response, Ch Insp Gareth Hughes quashed the suggestion that children are being utilised as drug runners on a regular basis.
He said: “The available data states clearly that the number of young people arrested in the borough is very few in the overall scheme of things.
“I would say that it’s a very tenuous assertion however, that given such numbers we can conclude that drug dealers are using younger people to distribute the drugs.
“Of course, if people are aware of such activity then they should contact us immediately.”
Of the total arrested, 10 were 17 year olds, two were 16, two 15 and one 14-year-old. For the period April to March 2011/12, seven of the arrests occurred while there were four each the year previous and also last year.
Wigan Council’s director of public health, Dr Kate Ardern, said that young people involved in drugs have access to support programmes.
She said: “Young people who are arrested are seen by either Wigan’s Restorative Solutions team or Youth Offending team, depending upon the seriousness of the crime and whether they are already known to the service.
“Through health screening interviews, where issues such as substance misuse, emotional and mental health, physical disability, learning disability, and speech and language issues will be assessed, the young person can then be referred for any support that is identified as being needed.
“Wigan Council has a comprehensive approach to drug awareness and abuse prevention in children.
“In cases where young people do have substance misuse issues, specialist assessments are made and we then work in partnership with the young person to identify an appropriate package of support and intervention.
“This is to increase their knowledge of the impact of substances, reduce the risk of substance misuse and support them to work towards abstaining from drug use and becoming drug free. The team works with young people across a broad age range in relation to the full spectrum of substances and is supported by a doctor and nurse.
“The team also offers a bespoke ‘Hidden Harm’ service to young people affected by parental alcohol or substance misuse.”