A Peckham resident has been charged with modern slavery offences after a “county lines” drug dealing investigation uncovered a 16-year-old boy allegedly selling heroin and cocaine in Canterbury, writes Kit Heren…
Javarni McPherson, of Peckham Park Road, was arrested by British Transport Police and Kent Police in Canterbury on July 1. Officers also took Trevis Abiola, of High Street, Orpington, into custody.
They were charged with human trafficking, concerned in the supply of cocaine and concerned in the supply of heroin.
McPherson, 21, was also charged with driving while under the influence of drugs.
Both men pleaded not guilty at Medway Magistrates Court. They are now due to appear at Maidstone Crown Court on July 31.
The British Transport Police set up a “county lines” taskforce in December 2019 with money from the Home Office. The team works to prevent drugs being sold on the railway network and in regional towns, and tries to protect children and vulnerable adults who can be pushed gangs into dealing and transporting drugs.
McPherson and Abiola, 21, are the first people to be charged with modern slavery offences by the new taskforce.
Detective superintendent Gareth Williams, who leads the taskforce, said: “Our taskforce is in a unique position, we operate nationally and target County Lines activity across the railway network.
“Our experience has proven that gangs who use the railway network rely on younger people to move drugs. These individuals are victims, forced through exploitation or intimidation into desperate situations, and it’s always our priority to make support available that can get them out of harm and away from crime.
“Since December, we’ve been carrying out operations on a daily basis, always based on developing intelligence that shows where gangs are operating. We get part of our information through working in partnership with other law enforcement agencies, but also importantly through the support of the rail industry who train their staff to spot signs of exploitation.
“Key indicators include a young child travelling long distances, alone with a large amount of cash, or avoiding any sort of authority at stations. These indicators are small but invaluable and help inform where we target next. This is an evolving understanding of County Lines offending and we are prepared to tackle it, wherever the intelligence leads us.”