Young Scots are fearless in tackling scourge of drugs

Young people are all too often painted in a poor light but a new campaign proves they care about their communities just as much as older people.

Saturday, 20th June 2020, 7:30 am

Fearless – the youth branch of Crimestoppers – recently launched a digital campaign to raise awareness of the harm drug dealers can inflict on vulnerable people across Scotland.

Using real-life case studies, the www.fearless.org campaign highlights how dealers prey on the vulnerable, such as those going through difficult times including bereavement.

The campaign also raises awareness of the ways drug dealing gangs can exploit young people.

And it is encouraging young people to speak up to make their communities safer by giving information online, via www.fearless.org, 100 per cent anonymously.

Within days of the campaign launch, the team had dozens of actionable pieces of information to help tackle the scourge of drugs.

The campaign will run until Sunday but, it has been such a success, it will also likely return when schools go back later this year.

Lyndsay McDade, senior youth projects officer with Crimestoppers, said: “In the first two days, we had received dozens of pieces of actionable intelligence from young people all across Scotland – all relating to the sale or manufacturing of drugs.

“We’ve also seen thousands of swipe ups to our dedicated drugs landing page from our social media platforms.

“The campaign really seems to have struck a chord with young people.”

Part of this success is undoubtedly the unique animations that have been created as part of the campaign.

They detail four stories that have happened to people, albeit the details have been changed somewhat to protect the people involved.

One story focuses on Amy, who becomes a victim of cuckooing.

Lyndsay explained: “The level of harm caused by cuckooing is huge, The names comes from the bird, which steals other birds’ nests for its own.

“Amy’s story centres on her being befriended in a skatepark.

“She didn’t have many friends at school but is befriended by a group of older people who she thinks are really cool.

“She’s thrilled they have accepted her so when they ask her to sell drugs, she thinks they really trust her.

“They then mug her so she is in debt to them and take over her life.

“Criminal gangs prey on vulnerable people in our communities, who are isolated and alone.

“Often it’s young people in their first tenancy or those with mental health issues.

“The harm that this causes is horrendous.”

This week’s animation features Tina, whose mum has died and she ends up on the streets with a very big addiction problem.

Lyndsay is delighted they have captured imaginations.

“We wanted to show the level of exploitation drug dealers use to target young people,” she said.

“The animations have been a great way of doing that and our social media clicks prove they are really hitting the mark with young people.”

While Lyndsay always advocates that young people speak to a parent, teacher or police officer if they have concerns, www.fearless.org is there for those who feel they can’t do that.

Young people can log on, fill in a simple form and have no fear of reprisals.

And it’s proving a winning formula. From April 2019 to March 2020, 58 per cent of all the information received from young people in Scotland related to drugs being sold.

Lyndsay added: “More and more young people are gaining the confidence to speak up to our charity in order to help prevent drug-related deaths and harm caused by dealers.

“Our charity is making a difference every day but we need young people to support us to do this.

“We’re urging young people to continue to tell our charity who they know or suspect is responsible for manufacturing or dealing drugs.

“It only takes two minutes to complete our anonymous online form at www.fearless.org and we guarantee you’ll stay 100 per cent anonymous.

“We can’t trace IP addresses or contact details that could identify you.

“Nobody will ever know the information came from you so there is no fear of reprisals or being labelled a grass by your peers.”

The campaign runs until Sunday. For more information visit www.fearless.org/en/campaigns/scotland-drugs.

Website is making a difference

Fearless, the youth service of the charity Crimestoppers, was launched five years ago.

It empowers young people to make informed decisions about reporting crime.

The website www.fearless.org allows young people to access non-judgemental information and advice about crime and criminality and also offers a safe place to give information completely anonymously.

Explaining why it was launched, Lyndsay said: “Crimestoppers receives thousands of pieces of information from adults in Scotland every year, allowing people to speak up about crimes when they may not want to speak to the police.

“It has been going for more than 30 years now and, looking at its success, we felt we really should give young people an opportunity to speak up too.

“Fearless gives young people a chance to help make their communities safer, simply by speaking up.

“After speaking to young people, we decided to focus the service online – as young people felt more comfortable with that medium.

“It was launched five years ago and has grown every year since, thanks to young people. Last year surpassed even our expectations but we couldn’t do what we do without young people getting on board.

“Scottish young people are doing an incredible job in speaking up and reporting crime in their communities.

“For me, it’s lovely to see that they want to use our service and are willing to speak out. The information they have provided is making a huge difference in communities all over Scotland.”

In addition to the website, prior to the Covid-19 lockdown Fearless also ran workshops in schools and for community youth groups, as well as providing training to youth professionals nationally.