A hard-hitting film has been launched to warn schoolchildren of the dangers of county lines drug-running through the lives of a teenage girl who was sucked into the evil trade.
I Am You has been made by former police officer and award winning director John Evans in the style of a graphic novel or comic and will be shown as part of a major campaign in schools across Wales.
He made the film for Colwyn Bay-based charity the Centre for Sign Sight Sound (COS) with a £10,000 grant from North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones using money seized from criminals.
The fact-based story in three languages – English, Welsh and British Sign Language features two teenage girls from North Wales and is to go out to schools and youth organisations across Wales with major interest also being shown by police forces in England.
The film will be used as part of a special lesson for Year 8 high school pupils that’s been developed as part of the All Wales Schools Liaison Core Programme otherwise known as SchoolBeat.
The Tricked and Trapped campaign is a response to growing concern over the way youngsters are being criminally exploited by the ruthless county lines gangs.
Children as young as 12 are being coerced into acting as drugs couriers with social media often being used to make the initial contact.
The film charts how easily teenagers can fall prey to the county lines drug traffickers and find themselves rapidly caught up in a cycle of debt, crime and violence but it also offers victims a route out of the downward spiral.
Mr Jones, a former police inspector in North Wales and a leading campaigner for changes in UK drugs laws, said: “This is a really hard-hitting film that shows the dangers that young people face from the criminals that run county lines drug gangs, many of them active in North Wales.
“We need a clear focus on county lines – a particularly vicious form of criminality that exploits young vulnerable people into a life of crime which is extremely dangerous and violent.
“I Am You literally graphically shows how easy it can be to be sucked and coerced into this life but importantly it also offers a pathway out of what can seem a hopeless predicament.
“In North Wales our proximity to Merseyside and the North West make us particularly vulnerable to the gangs who run these criminal operations and I am also pleased that the excellent film is being picked up by all the Welsh police forces and that it is also attracting interest from across the border too.”
John Evans, from Bangor, is the head of media and communication at COS and the managing director of production partner Clecs Media.
He is a former soldier and Holyhead police officer, who left the police to study film at Bangor University.
He later worked in television and won a Royal Television Society award, as well as being nominated for a BAFTA and a Celtic Media Award.
His work has featured on BBC Three and on S4C where his first documentary Cysgod Rhyfel (The Shadow of War) highlighted the issues faced by four former soldiers who suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
He said: “Most of my work is about social issues and often has had young people as protagonists.
“The film I Am You aims to show how vulnerable children aged from 12 to 14 can be drawn into a life of crime by drugs gangs operating across North Wales and recruiting young people as couriers.
“I used a comic book graphic style familiar to the young people it is aimed at and it needed to be educational but at the same time entertaining and engrossing and it needed to be brief as well.
“It is a reflective journey by a young girl so that the audience can see what went wrong and how you can get into that situation and not recognise when things start to go wrong.”
The £10,000 grant for the film came from a special fund distributed by Arfon Jones through the Your Community, Your Choice initiative which is supported by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT).
Amanda Hanson, Serious Violence Prevention Officer for the Commissioner’s Office, said: “This is the first time the subject of county lines had been approached in this way and the result is a film with appeal to young people but has also been developed for an educational setting with accompanying resources.
“The aim is for young people and their parents to understand what county lines is and how they can be exploited but that it’s never their fault and to show them where they can get help and support.
“It has been trialled in schools in Rhyl, Denbigh and Bangor and has been very successful and it is now going out to schools across Wales while police forces in Merseyside, Cheshire and Derbyshire have shown particular interest in it.
“A lot of lessons for young people can be in PowerPoint format but we feel this will really engage with them because it’s in a format they’re familiar with but it is also going to be of interest to parents and to anyone involved in the care of young people.”
Posted on Thursday 5th November 2020