County lines gangs are recruiting children at the school gate and targeting pupils as they leave detention, an MP has claimed.
Labour Shadow Youth Justice Secretary Peter Kyle has said gang members wait outside school, hoping to recruit vulnerable children, and have even targeted pupil referral units.
The term county lines refer to organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into areas of the UK.
The MP for Hove and Portslade said: “County lines drug gangs recruit the vulnerable. The drug gangs recruit outside schools waiting for the kids in detention."
“They understand the vulnerabilities of children, they know the psychology of children.”
"The criminals understand our child protection system better than the Home Office and the justice system.”
The National Crime Agency says gangs often exploit children and adults with mental health or addiction problems to act as drug runners.
In cases of 'cuckooing' the dealers will take over a local property, normally belonging to a vulnerable person, and use it as a base to operate their criminal activity from.
Chief Superintendent Nick May from Sussex Police said: "Drug dealers recruiting young people outside schools is not a specific issue that has been reported to police in Brighton and Hove but I understand it is a despicable tactic that has been seen elsewhere.
"County Lines is a complex issue, marring cities across the UK. In Brighton and Hove we are taking robust action to dismantle lines running into the city in order to disrupt the supply and prevent the vulnerable from being exploited.”