THE exploitation of vulnerable children in care by crime gangs – which has become known as county lines – is deeply worrying and distressing.

The despicable actions were highlighted in a BBC News special feature this week after a reporting team was given access to Merseyside Police officers who were searching for youngsters who had gone missing from St Helens.

The gangs are preying on children in care and then drawing them into crime, predominantly drug dealing, in other counties and countries.

The reporter heard how the activity is ruining the lives and character of these children, who are some of the most vulnerable in society.

It made for heartbreaking and shocking viewing.

County lines is a problem for St Helens – the fact that the borough has borders with Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Cheshire and has a high amount of children in care makes the area vulnerable to these crime gangs’ operations.

But it is not a problem isolated to St Helens, with the report estimating out that up to 10,000 nationwide could be being trafficked into a life a drug dealing.

By allowing the reporters to follow under-resourced officers struggles to cope with the demands of the exploitation, police and partner agencies gave the BBC an insight into how a crisis is developing.

It is a national problem that needs a national solution – specifically a clear strategy and direction from government and vastly increased resources for police and other agencies.

Boris Johnson and his government has been quick to make some bold claims about becoming tough on crime. We suggest they act on this swiftly.