Stacey Dooley goes undercover on social media to meet the new generation of British drug dealers responsible for the biggest ever change to the drug trade.
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This programme contains some strong language.
Britain's drugs trade is going through a digital revolution.
Up and down the country,
dealers are now using social apps to sell their gear.
Nowhere is out of reach.
Just a swipe away, and costing less than a pint of beer,
it's never been easier for kids to get their hands on drugs...
..but who are the people behind the biggest ever change
to the UK drug trade?
I'm going undercover,
to get face-to-face with this new breed of dealer.
Have you done this before?
For the first time on UK screens,
we will reveal who are Britain's digital dealers.
Welcome to Britain 2017.
There is a seismic shift in drug-using habits
amongst Britain's teens that's come up from the underground.
Around one in five 16-24-year-olds took illegal drugs last year.
The last five years has seen
a 30% rise in drug abuse and misuse in the UK...
..and the UK has 300,000 new MDMA users since last year.
I'm meeting up with a couple of young users
to find out how they buy their drugs.
Doesn't take very long to get the info.
And how old were you when you first started taking drugs?
And the way that you buy your drugs, has that changed?
It's always been online for you?
Why do you think dealers are attracted to the idea
of selling on Snapchat and Insta?
So there's no evidence,
you've cleared your tracks,
you're good to go?
How many dealers do you know on Snapchat and Insta?
You know, I wasn't that familiar with Snapchat.
Like, I Instagram.
You know, I didn't realise the enormity of the industry.
It's clear how quickly things have changed.
I've decided to go undercover online,
to find out who's supplying these young kids with class A drugs.
Using my 15-year-old's friend's photos,
I am posing as her on three popular social apps.
Yellow is a new social app
that helps you makes friends on Snap and Insta.
After just a few conversations,
I learned the secret code for finding drugs.
Dealers show they are open for business
through emojis tacked on their profile.
Maple leaf is the universal symbol for drugs.
All class As are on offer.
Within an hour,
I'm bombarded with people all over the UK.
Some of these dealers are as young as 13.
I've probably been interacting with...
certainly hundreds of profiles...
..and I can't stress enough
how unbelievably straightforward I have found it
to potentially get my hands on class A drugs.
You've just got to make sure you know
what kind of emojis you are looking for,
you're very clear about what you're after -
and if they can't help you,
they can almost certainly point you to the direction
of somebody else, who can.
So there's this lad called Ty, who says he is 16 years old.
Honestly, he's just so loud, he's so noisy.
He doesn't stop.
He's posting sometimes every 20 minutes.
Very clearly see his face.
Some of his posts...
Got the food for sale.
It's clear that he's really into weed.
So I've just sent him a message saying, "Have you got anything else?
"D'you deal with class As?"
so he's come back with this video and it is his hands.
There are six red pills in a glass bottle.
I'm intrigued to meet up with Ty -
but in the meantime,
a lad called Denva is ready to sell me seven MDMA pills
His profile says he's 15,
but he seems to be an expert in all things class A.
I'm on my way to Maidstone train station.
I've arranged to meet with Denva at 5pm, just after school.
He wants me to go alone,
so I'm using a hidden camera to film our conversation.
This is wired through to this button here.
It's actually a hidden camera.
That's ideal, cos then I can see the drugs.
This is on.
I'm going to do it.
Wish me luck.
Just going to text him now and let him know I'm by the phone boxes.
He's just messaged me. "Go Homelands".
OK. He says he's coming in ten minutes.
What's your name?
Ah. God, you're a lot younger than I thought you would be.
'Denva wants to do the deal for seven MDMA pills
'at the top of the hill.
'But it's too far away from my crew.
'I need to get him to turn back.'
Sorry, I didn't think it would be so busy.
Have you come straight from school?
'Denva seemed so confident online.
'Now, in person, he's super nervous.'
I guess we could go round the back of...
I finally managed to get back down the hill
to a secluded area close to the crew.
So they're legit, right? They're decent pills?
Can I see them?
Are there definitely seven there?
Have you taken them before?
Where do you get them from?
you don't need to panic,
because we're nothing to do with the police.
We're nothing to do with the police.
Do you want to have a quick conversation with us?
Tell me how long you've been doing it for.
What kind of pills are they?
Would you mind if I took them and got them tested?
I don't know if I believe you, Denva.
No, don't, no, don't, don't eat any.
-Don't eat any. Please don't eat any.
-It's a mint.
'I'm not buying that they're mints.'
'I've been talking to Denva for weeks now,
'and his detailed knowledge of MDMA
'suggests this isn't the first time he sold drugs on Snap.
'I've no idea who he's texting.'
How often have you done this before?
I don't believe you.
Are you sure?
There've been no kids in the past that you've sold to?
So why were you, why were you so happy to meet me, then?
Just needed the money?
Is there anything you want to say to us?
It's just a mint.
So you were going to take 50 quid off me for what,
three mints and four painkillers?
Where does your mum think you are?
All right, mate.
Well, listen, be careful.
'The whole situation was so surreal.'
You know, I'm stood there, outside a train station...
..waiting for a lad, and I honestly thought he'd have left school.
You know, 16, 17, 18...
This kid rocks up in his school uniform,
telling me he's got my gear.
That just infuriates me.
It just... You know...
Adults selling to adults, that's one thing,
that's your business, you know, whatever you do,
you're a grown man.
We're now in a situation where they're sending out...
..children to go and do their dirty work after school.
Whether the MDMAs were real or not,
it's clear Denva was connected to someone older.
I need to speak to the people who supply these Snapchat dealers.
I've been trying for weeks now to speak with some dealers
at the top of the drug supply chain.
Finally, I've found a gang in Glasgow who are willing to do it.
So, right now,
I'm en route to go and meet some drug dealers
in their safe house.
I've got a feeling that these guys...are fairly big time.
You know, when we were talking about the amounts
and the enormity of some of the situations,
they were talking millions and millions of pounds...
..and the guys in charge who are sat at the top, very wealthy.
Tons of assets.
He's got a lot to lose if it all goes wrong.
My understanding is that they're selling heroin, speed and coke
through Instagram, online.
To be honest, at this point,
I don't know enough about the digital dealers...
..we'll get a clear insight into their world.
I think we'll turn the camera off in five minutes.
I don't want to piss them off before we've started!
My gosh, that don't look suspicious at all, does it?
I'm in the kitchen with the dealers.
They've just received a shipment of liquid cocaine from South America,
hidden in olive oil bottles.
They're going to show me how they cook it back into powder.
Smell it, yeah, it's quite strong. It's like noodle juice.
How much will that go for, a gram?
Oh, it's pure?
I can, yeah, I can see it's just starting to crystallise.
It doesn't take very long.
I'm gobsmacked at how quick that is.
The dealers take me to the next room,
where the coke is prepared for distribution on social media apps.
Hello. All right.
You look a bit warm.
Thank you so much for having me.
Christ, the anticipation, it's killing me!
Where'd you get this from?
-You bury your coke in the ground?
Oh, I see.
So how much for that bag?
That's five grand?
So how much of this will end up on Instagram?
All of it?
Yeah, talk me through the risks.
-You would get 20?
What's the buzz? Talk me through it.
Whilst the first orders of the night
are being packed for the digital dealers,
the gang are keen to show me the full range of drugs
that will be sold tonight.
-Hello. How are you?
-I'm all right.
Tell me what we're seeing, what we're looking at.
Got you. How much is that worth, that pile?
Just this pile?
So talk me through the process. Who will pick that up?
Who will get that coke?
So the lads that are below you boys will get that coke,
they'll take photos,
they'll take videos...
-Yeah. And off it goes.
It's that straightforward?
How many boys have you got working below you
that sell through Instagram?
Would you use kids?
How does that make you feel?
How old's your kid?
So how would you feel if, in ten years' time,
he was strung out on heroin?
What would you do to the dealer?
Can you see the hypocrisy there?
The rest of the weekend orders are all packaged up
and ready to be sold on social apps.
That's that, another day in the office?
How much is there?
So, how much of that will have been made online, through the apps?
Where do you put all the money?
HE CHUCKLES WRYLY
Today was quite an eye-opener,
to say the least.
Just the scale of their operations,
and the amount of money that we're talking about...
..and the idea that three quarters of their earnings
are sometimes coming from social apps like Snapchat, Insta...
Really highlights the direction that dealing's going, I suppose.
You know, it's inevitable that these digital dealers are the future.
Watching Instagram's advertising campaign,
it's pretty clear who their target audience is.
Users aged between 16 and 24
make up over a third of UK account holders.
But Snapchat appears to be the platform of choice
for UK's teens,
with over 75% of them using the app.
Connectivity with our drug dealers throughout the UK
is boosted by a new feature called Snap Maps.
The GPS technology helps you pinpoint your nearest drug supply.
It's a dealers' free-for-all,
that they are more than happy to exploit.
I still have a lot of questions,
so I've decided to get back in touch with Ty on Snapchat.
He's agreed to meet me at Croydon train station
with the six MDMA pills he promised me.
He looks way more experienced than Denva.
Hopefully he can give me a better insight
into this new world of dealing.
The lad's saying he's down by Tesco Express,
and wants to meet there -
but we just can't, it's too far down.
So I've just said, look, we're here,
if you're coming, you're coming. If you're not, cool.
Just got this text saying, "OK, jump on a 466 towards Coulsdon
"and get off at Swan and Sugar Loaf."
So, I think he's on his way.
"I'm here, I'm outside Costa."
I'm by the cycle hub.
'I'm worried that this guy's going to suss me out.
'He seems to me like an experienced dealer.'
Thanks for coming here.
Where shall we go?
Yeah, good, man.
So, what have you got?
How many have you got?
Can I see them?
Shit, what ones are they?
I thought you had the red ones?
Oh, shit. Where'd you get them from?
How old are you?
Fuck, you're so young!
'He's only 16, but he oozes confidence.'
OK. So you said 30?
OK. So, Ty, I've got something to tell you,
don't panic, we're nothing to do with the police.
We're making a documentary about the drug dealers that sell to kids.
You're not the only person we've been speaking to.
Would you talk to me, ten minutes?
Yeah? You and I will just have a quick chat.
So, when did you start selling weed?
13, 12?! Through school?
How much do you make?
Give me an idea.
Is it lucrative?
So, how much, roughly, a day?
300 a day? And you're 16?
Over two grand a week?
Fuck! What do you do with all that money?
Who do you live with?
She doesn't ask where the money comes from?
Realistically, Ty, if it's quite easy for me to find you online,
do you worry that you're too loud, too noisy,
like, the police might find you?
Has that happened in the past?
What would you say to the people who say that people like you,
you have no morals, you have no ethics,
you're responsible for these kids dying?
I mean, do adults pressure you to get the kids as customers?
So you don't feel any responsibility towards the people
that you're selling the gear to?
No? Even if they're at school? Kids?
Do you feel like you're a kid?
Could you get a normal job now?
You get addicted to the money?
So, where's your next customer?
What time you got to meet them?
Well, thank you for talking to me.
I appreciate it, I accept that this probably isn't what you thought you
were going to be doing this afternoon.
I know, I'm sorry, I apologise -
but at least I'm not with the police.
'I got to say, I'm actually totally blown away...'
'..in terms of how open he was.'
We were stood there for about 20 minutes.
I was fully expecting him to kick off,
or go for us,
or go for the camera,
or run away.
But he was really poised,
and really honest -
and, for him,
he doesn't carry any of the responsibility.
He's just the dealer.
He's not forcing the drugs on the kids, the kids go to him.
In his mind, what's the problem?
So, there you go. There's what a digital drug dealer looks like.
Not even an hour after we left him,
Ty is back on Snapchat,
back to business,
selling more drugs.
Over the course of my eight week investigation,
I've been trying to speak with the people behind these apps.
I want to find out first whether the big companies are aware
of the sheer scale of drugs being sold on their sites -
and, if so, ask, what exactly are they doing about it?
I've written to all three platforms.
Both Instagram and Yellow replied,
but Snapchat declined.
After weeks of chasing,
I still haven't had an official response from them,
so I decide to go directly to the general manager
at Snapchat's headquarters in London.
I can't imagine her entertaining me out on the street -
but I just think...
if I show her that I'm serious,
she might give me an interview.
I just want to say, are you aware that this is going on?
If you're not, now you do know, what do you plan to do?
If you are, why on earth hasn't something been done sooner?
Hello, I wonder if you can, please.
It's Stacey Dooley here, from BBC Three.
I was wondering if...Claire, the General Manager, was available?
If she's due in at all today?
I first wrote to Snapchat three weeks ago.
Five e-mails later,
and I'm still waiting for an official response from them.
Shortly after my brief chat with the receptionist,
Snapchat sent out a security guard.
The head of communications comes down the street and spots me,
so I confront him about his lack of response.
I think it's going to look quite appalling if you guys don't respond.
But obviously, you know, it's your choice.
Cool. Do you know when Claire is in?
Cool. OK. Thank you, Colin.
I just think it's a total embarrassment,
the way they've handled this entire situation.
I said very clearly, from the start,
we've got evidence that shows your app is being used by kids
to sell other children class As.
Do you want to have a conversation about it?
Just not arsed whatsoever.
Now I've come out here today,
the guy at communications has said that they never give interviews,
they're above interviews,
they don't feel they've got to justify themselves to anyone,
despite the fact I'm telling them that what's going on
is totally illegal, and they're putting kids' lives at risk -
and if they sat down,
and didn't bury their head in the sand,
they'd be forced to act,
and that would cost money.
So I can only imagine that's why they don't fancy talking.
Social app drug dealing is booming.
It's never been easier for kids to get access to class A drugs -
and yet no-one seems to be taking responsibility
for safeguarding them.
Three weeks after my e-mail and two days after our doorstep,
Snapchat finally sends an official response.
"We have a dedicated team that work round the clock to enforce those
"policies and to respond to requests from law enforcement.
"We encourage all Snapchatters to report anything to us
that doesn't belong on Snapchat,
"by using our new in-app reporting tools."
Instagram told us that buying or selling drugs is prohibited.
Instagram encourage anyone who comes across content similar
to that appearing in our film to report it
via the built-in reporting tools.
Yellow acknowledged they need to
do more to prohibit the selling of drugs on their site,
but they claim it's a problem in society
that they cannot control.
All three apps encourage users to report content
that breaches their policies
to dedicated teams,
working around the clock to safeguard the platforms.
So I decided to put that to the test,
and reported three users who claimed to sell drugs through their apps,
It's been five days since I reported our alleged dealers,
and all three of them are still active on the apps.
The in-built reporting tools don't appear to be working.
I fear it's going to take something tragic to happen to these kids
before Yellow, Snapchat and Instagram wake up,
and take more action.
it will continue to be a drug dealer's paradise.
Stacey Dooley delves deep undercover into the nascent world of Britain's digital drug dealers. Using fake profiles on Instagram, Snapchat and new social app Yellow, she reveals how school children as young as 15 are selling class A drugs on social platforms. It is only a matter of seconds before Stacey is offered everything from cocaine to meth.
Stacey comes face to face with a British gang who now rely upon young digital dealers to keep their business afloat. Access to one of Britian's largest drug outfits reveals 75% of their revenue now comes through digital dealers who operate remotely from the privacy of their bedroom. The fast-paced connectivity of Snapchat and Instagram means the gang can sell up to Â£22,000 worth of cocaine in a couple of hours.
The only way for Stacey to meet the elusive digital dealers and find out more about their world is to go undercover. After decoding their secret emoji drug code, Stacey arranges MDMA deals and confronts the dealers. Young dealers show how opportunistic individuals operating online are overpopulating an already overcrowded market. But how they reach their client base is revolutionising the game and putting more and more street dealers out of business.
As the digital drug revolution gathers pace, it runs the risk of turning into an epidemic as Snapchat, Instagram and Yellow appear to be doing very little to quash this drug dealing haven.