PREDATORY drug gangs are attempting to recruit schoolchildren after detention as the city fights an overwhelming battle against ever-powerful cartels.

That is according to Shadow Youth Justice Secretary Peter Kyle.

The Hove and Portslade MP is speaking out after stark new figures revealed Brighton and Hove as the South East capital for drug deaths with a person dying nearly every fortnight.

Vicious gangs are bringing knives, human slavery and misery to our neighbourhoods, he says, and the city is now the number one destination for “County Lines” in the country.

The term describes organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into areas of the UK.

The Argus: National Crime Agency raids

Where the gangs go, the National Crime Agency (NCA) says, exploitation of the young and vulnerable people soon follows.

Mr Kyle says they have been enticed into a city made profitable by resident demand for drugs, as well as its proximity to London.

He said: “I wish people who consume drugs thinking it is harmless understood the lives that they are destroying.

“It’s the children that are trafficked under modern slavery conditions and exploited by drug gangs.

“It is the knives and weapons that it brings into our streets and communities and it is the burden that it places on our healthcare system with A&E packed full of people on a weekend night.”

The Argus:

According to Mr Kyle, the “clever” criminals are exploiting weaknesses within our authorities to target our children as systems are not adequately set-up to deal with cross-border threats.

The result is a plague of drug deaths and exploitation.

“County lines drug gangs recruit the vulnerable, the drug gangs recruit outside schools waiting for the kids in the detention,” he said.

The NCA says gangs target children and adults, often with mental health or addiction problems, to act as drug runners or move cash so they can stay under the radar of law enforcement.

In some cases the dealers will take over a local property, normally belonging to a vulnerable person, and use it to operate their criminal activity from. This is known as cuckooing.

People exploited in this way will quite often be exposed to physical, mental and sexual abuse, and in some instances will be trafficked to areas a long way from home as part of the network’s drug dealing business.

Mr Kyle said: “The number of deaths from drugs is stubbornly high there is an increasing amount violent crime.

“Drugs underpin, or are part of, most violent crime – it’s part of the chain and part of the toxic effects that having a thriving drug culture.”

Mr Kyle blasted middle-class people funding this growing drug trade by taking “cocaine with friends around the dinner table”.

“Their actions are on a scale that spans from naivety through to outright hypocrisy,” he said.

To help fix the problem, Mr Kyle believes agencies need to work with each other across borders and authorities need to take a more proactive approach in dealing with gangs.

He said: “We need more investment in support for young people, we need more resources to pre-emptively and proactively police areas that this activity occurs and we have got to do better to make people who consume products understand the damage they do to people’s lives.

“British Transport Police have been a good exception and their recent operations in last six months have been very successful, but that is a bright light in a very dark sky.”

Sussex Police say they are doing everything they can to protect children and young people from the threat of gangs.

Last month, officers identified a 16-year-old from Buckinghamshire at Brighton railway station who was vulnerable to exploitation and took action to protest her.

The Argus:

Detective Superintendent Mike Ashcroft said: “Brighton and Hove Police won’t tolerate drug dealing in the city.

“Peter Kyle is correct when he says that drugs bring violence and we are working hard to help free the city from that violence which is a problem for many cities in the country. County Lines is a nationwide issue and a complex one that police can’t address alone. We are working closely together with the city council, schools, charities, London boroughs, rail companies and other police forces, the Met and BTP especially, to help eliminate County Lines and safeguard the young and vulnerable people who are exploited.

“However it should be noted that there is an issue in Brighton and Hove about the tolerance of drug use amongst many in the city. This tolerance of cocaine and cannabis is driving the exploitation of young people from London and locally. There is no such thing as an “ethically-sourced” supply of illegal drugs. They all rely on exploitation, violence and in many cases modern slavery.

The Argus:

“It is our daily business to target and disrupt serious criminal activity through numerous operations and tactics including warrants, plain clothes and uniformed patrols, and intelligence-led arrests. We have made more than 700 arrests for drug offences in the last six months; with a leader of a County Lines drug operation recently sentenced to 56 months in prison.

“Last month, we executed a warrant in Hove where drugs with a street value of around £10,000 were seized and two suspects arrested. In the past six months alone, we have made 162 arrests for possession with intent to supply unlawful drugs in the city.”