Kids aged 12 steal to pay drug debts
A mother has pleaded for drug barons to be banished as it emerged that children as young as 12 are stealing to pay off debts.
The call came as the mother of a 14-year-old revealed her son repeatedly stole from their home to pay off drug dealers.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, said her son was so terrified after receiving threats from drug dealers that he was not eating or sleeping properly.
She said: "He was steady stealing off us and it got to the stage where we had to basically staple everything down. Now we know why because he came and asked us for help.
"You think at 14 the worst they are going to get up to is trying a bit of vodka. He is not the only one. His friends and other younger people are in the same boat. Every area of this town is affected."
The Londonderry woman said she so worried that her son was not eating and sleeping that she took him to a local doctor before he was referred to a counsellor.
She said of the dealers demanding payment: "These people should be put out of the town. They should be threatened and bullied the way they are doing to children."
Sinn Fein Councillor Billy Page said today that children as young as 12 in the city were in similar positions.
Mr Page, who said he has personally referred two children in similar circumstances for counselling, said: "In one case a boy had his nose broken by a drug dealer because he could not afford to pay for the drugs."
He added: " These drug dealers are parasites who are living off the back of our young people without any regard for consequences of their actions.
" I would call on anyone who has information on these drug dealers to make it known to the authorities so that they can be removed from our communities."
Co Derry woman Tina Brolly, whose teenage brother Jason died after taking Ecstasy in 2003, said she was shocked by the latest developments.
In a hard-hitting message to drug dealers she said: "The way I see it, it is a long road and I believe they will meet their match. They cannot carry on killing wee'uns or destroying wee'uns' lives.
"Why would anyone give drugs to a 14-year-old or children even younger? Often it's to get them hooked and then turn them into a runner."
Ms Brolly said the local drugs scene was getting worse, with cocaine and crystal meth now widely available.
Sympathising with other families affected, she said: "It never crossed my mind that this would have happened to my family.
"We are a big family and what we know now is that Jason might have asked me for £1 and another relative for £1 and so on and the Es only cost £2.50."
Drug and alcohol awareness project Divert revealed that it is currently dealing with more than 100 young people from across the North West under the age of 17 on the WHSSB's youth referral programme.
Project co-ordinator Deborah Cross said it had not come across young people being threatened by dealers, adding: "Just because we have not come across it does not suggest it isn't happening, and we would appeal to any young person who is in that situation to seek help and support from agencies like ourselves."