That was the situation some parents found themselves in a few years ago, when criminals tried to recruit children to shoulder the risk of storing and dealing cannabis and cocaine across South Devon.
Dealers running so-called County Lines networks have a tried and tested business model. They know kids who are having a tough time at home or at school are easier targets, they feign concern for them and pretend to offer support, money and a network of friends.
The police were finding that young people in Newton Abbot and Torquay were carrying weapons and sometimes significant quantities of drugs. When arrested they would be more fearful of the dealers who would be angry at the confiscation of their illicit product than they would of the criminal justice system.
It was not a problem that Devon and Cornwall Police could arrest its way out of.
It would take creative thinking and the breaking down of barriers between police, parents and council staff to come up with a solution. I was able to play a part, helping to secure more than half a million pounds of Home Office money, and Turning Corners was born.
Its aim was to reduce the risk of young people becoming involved in violence, anti-social behaviour and crime through early intervention and prevention. Some of the children identified as being at risk had been exposed to domestic abuse, some had speech, language or mental health needs that were not being met.
Vital to Turning Corners’ success was the setting up of parent support groups that enabled mums and dads to better understand the risks their children were facing and get help and advice from others who had been through the same issues.
Youth outreach, something I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, played an important role, with the money we received helping to fund expert youth workers who engaged young people where they were hanging out.
And a Moving Up Together initiative was established to support vulnerable young people who were taking part in that tricky transition from primary to secondary school.
When the Home Office funding was spent, further investment into this project was made through the Devon and Cornwall Serious Violence Prevention Partnership, an approach established by the Chief Constable and me a couple of years ago. To date Turning Corners has helped a total of 727 young people, engaging with 91 families.
This week I will have the pleasure of meeting some of the parents and young people that this scheme has been involved in, but I would argue that by helping young people stay out of trouble we all owe a debt of gratitude to those who imagined this programme, and then made it work. Because the life chances of these young people have improved, they are more likely to be productive adults who can make a contribution to society. And although we have invested considerable sums, exposing these children to a heightened chance of addiction or incarceration would have been a far more expensive and immoral option.
The programme is showing great results. There have been no permanent exclusions among year seven children who took part in Moving Up Together, parent support groups are now running independently and there has been a really positive response from communities where young people have been offered structured activities.
While we all have a responsibility to help young people across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly I would argue that drug users have more than most. This winter I am working with five other Police and Crime Commissioners from around the South West, with our respective forces, to make the region a hostile environment to drug dealers and users.
Snorting cocaine and using cannabis have become far too socially acceptable considering the toll those drugs take on society, so high profile police activity will be taking place in towns and cities around the region.
Our plea to users is that they stop funding a supply chain that supports child exploitation and violence. If they need help to kick the habit it will be supplied. But if they choose to ignore our message they may well find themselves in the back of a police van.
In order for these operations to be as successful as possible police need your information. Intelligence can be passed anonymously to CrimeStoppers on 080055511 or via CrimeStoppers.org.uk.