A TERRIFIED grandfather claims children are being exploited by dealers and the police - including his 14-year-old grandson - as part of a drugs war.

The grandad claims Southend High Street dealers are targeting the vulnerable child and “nothing is being done” to stop them.

He said: “I have had the police at my door a few times telling me they have CCTV footage of him being handed packets of drugs and handing it out to addicts. Our kids are being exploited and it feels like the police are letting it happen, using them as bait.

“You would think the priority would be to safeguard the children.”

His grandson denies involvement in the industry.

It follows claims schoolchildren are specifically being targeted in Southend.

He added: “Of course he wouldn’t tell me. He does get a bit defensive sometimes when I ask but so many people are saying this is going on.

“They all go to the same school and I know of a 13-year-old who was found with 26 wraps of class A drugs by a parent which were immediately taken off him and they had to arrange to give it back to the dealer out of fear of reprisal.

“It’s ongoing every day and nothing is being done.

“My grandson could be in danger

“Instead of trying to help him, they are treating him like a criminal.

“Meanwhile, the real dealers all hang round out of sight near places like the Forum and let the children run their drugs like cowards.

“Nobody is doing anything about it - it’s disgusting.”

Parents of a fellow pupil told the Echo their son was recruited aged 13.

A spokesman for Essex Police said: “Nothing is more important to Essex Police than protecting the children and vulnerable within our communities.

“We do not and will not use children as “bait” to catch drug dealers.

“We know in Southend there are some ruthless gangs who do and will target the vulnerable, preying on them and getting them involved in gang life and drug dealing. “We have specially trained officers working overtly and covertly, out on the streets arresting those involved in drug and gang-related crime with the aim of taking out these gangs at the highest possible level.

“This is a reality that we should all be aware of and we all have a part to play in educating young people that gang life is not glamorous and young people who choose this path will end up involved in a life of crime, danger and violence.”

Essex Police is working with Southend Council on the #SeeTheSigns campaign to try and warn parents. The school did not comment.