A BOY was left shocked after discovering he was being groomed by a drug dealer thanks to an eye-opening project tackling gangs.

The UTurn project was set up in November to offer confidential information and help to young people at risk of becoming involved with drug gangs.

Essex Police worked with secondary schools in Tendring on the pilot scheme to provide one-to-one and group mentoring to students.

Shani Jackson, UTurn director, said: “One teenager stated the course didn’t apply to him, but he also said he had been given new clothes and new trainers from someone that was associated with his mum, online.

“He had been given packages that he had to deliver and a mobile phone.

“He didn’t realise that he was being groomed by a drug dealer.

“He was shocked, but because of the pilot intervention, he was made aware of his situation and we were able to provide him with the help he needed.

“Had the young man not been subject to mentoring sessions, it’s probable that his situation would have escalated and got a lot worse.”

The seven-week project was designed to give young people a better understanding of gangs, knife crime, the effects of it and to create measures to assist in preventing victimisation and reoffending.

Shani added: “We are taking young people into police custody suites to show them what happens when someone is arrested to give them that discouraging sense of reality.

“We are working with the NHS and the Red Cross to deliver hard-hitting messages and to teach them how to handle situations such as wounding and bleeding as we are aware that young people could find themselves in these emergency situations.”

Tania Swanson, co-director for UTurn, added that the evidence suggests before being educated about the issue, young people showed a consistent lack of awareness.

She added: “We aren’t professing to saving these young people, but we are providing them with the knowledge that could be crucial in them becoming aware of the dangers and helping them to make safer, better choices.”

The work received £12,000 of funding as part of the Violence and Vulnerability Programme established by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst.

Mr Hirst said the work was a key priority.