A TEENAGER from North Yorkshire is the catalyst for a national initiative.

A 14-year-old pupil called Imogen from Rossett High in Harrogate was the impetus for a competition which has been launched for young people to write a poem or song to highlight the dangers of carrying knives and being exploited by County Lines drugs gangs.

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North Yorkshire children’s author Christina Gabbitas, an honorary member of the NSPCC Council, and Coronation Champion, has spent years working with police forces, schools and other agencies in educating young people, teachers, parents and carers about the devastating consequences of carrying knives.

She said that gangs are usually part of larger organised crime groups from major cities who move into towns and rural areas across county borders and groom young people into transporting, storing, and dealing drugs on their behalf. Deals are carried out using mobile phones, the so-called ‘County Lines’. Often vulnerable adults may have their properties taken over by the gangs to store drugs, known as ‘cuckooing’.

Sergeant Heidi Lewis from North Yorkshire Police sent Christina Imogen's poem, "Blades of Silence," inquiring about a potential competition entry. With her background in organising successful national and international writing initiatives, Christina decided to establish a competition for students aged 12-21 to write about the issues surrounding county lines and knife crime.

Christina who is also an ambassador for children and young people in libraries said: “Imogen's poem is brilliant. I’m a big believer in the power of storytelling and words to convey important messages to children and young people. We need to listen to what children and young people have to say. The school sessions aren’t ‘one hit wonders’ the conversation carries on with writing.”

Christina GabbitasChristina Gabbitas (Image: Supplied)

One of the judges on the initiative Pastor Lorraine Jones-Burrell, CEO of the Dwayne Simpson Foundation CIC, and knife crime campaigners said: "I have sadly experienced the horror of losing my Son Dwayne Simpson to knife crime in 2014. The impact shattered my heart and family. Youth violence and child exploitation has sadly grown in numbers it's truly a miracle when a victim survives and is able to rehabilitate and heal.

"Christina's initiative to educate our youth is saving lives. Her knowledge and spirit bringing emergency services and youth organisations to work together better is exceptional."

There are two age groups for the competition; 12-16 and 17-21 and the closing date is June 30.

Entries should be sent to info@christinagabbitas.com - please state your name, age, school or university, and title of poem in your email.

There are prizes of £200 vouchers for a store of your choice for the overall winner: second place £100, third place £50. The top 50 poems/songs will be published in a special book that will be published. All participants selected will receive a free copy with further copies proceeds donated to NSPCC Childline.

More information can be found at www.trappedincountylines.co.uk/competition/ View the Trapped in County Lines video at www.trappedincountylines.co.uk/