CHILDREN and young people in Swindon are becoming increasingly vulnerable to crime, both as victim and offenders, according to a new report on safety.

Officers from Swindon Borough Council presented an assessment of the community safety needs in the town to the borough council’s health and well-being board yesterday.

Cherry Jones, the authority's director of public health said youngsters were more at risk of exploitation from criminal gangs: “There are 45 drug networks in Swindon identified, four of those are County Lines operations and 68 children were identified as being exploited or at risk.

“We know that at least 22 of those 45 networks have used children as drugs runners.”

Ms Jones also said there had been an increase in violence perpetrated by boys: “The most frequently occurring victim and offender profile respectively in Wiltshire and Swindon consists of males under 16 years of age.

“There was a 45 per cent increase of violence against the person offenders who were males under 16 between 2015-16 to 2016-17, from 365 to 531,” she said.

One of the board, Michelle Howard, asked how many of the 68 young people exploited by County Lines gangs were from ethnic minorities. “We need to know what ethnicities they are because that will determine the approaches made by authorities in those communities and the response,” she explained.

But the information was not available.

Drugs abuse in Swindon remains stable in Swindon according to the assessment. There were an estimated 1,147 users of opiates, such as heroin, and crack cocaine in 2011-12, while the estimate for 2014/15 was 1,153. An estimated 688 users, 60 per cent, are in effective treatment.

Violence against women and girls is also an issue,with the proportion of repeated domestic abuse cases significantly higher in Swindon than nationally. Last year 40 per cent of the 4582 incidents of domestic abuse reported in town were repeat cases. The national figure is 26 per cent.

Ms Jones said: “We’ve estimated that 5,000 females have experienced domestic abuse in Swindon.”

Kevin McNamara, from Great Western Hospitals NHS Trust asked: “ Do you share data with health providers so we can target people at risk of abuse?”

Ms Jones said the council exchanged information with primary care institutions.