Transcript: Zack’s Story – Chapter 2 – Disability hate crime and county lines
Hey, I’m Zack and this is the next chapter of my story.
The coronavirus lockdown really messed with my routines but now that the restrictions have lifted, I have started to go out again.
That’s Daniel, he’s my new best mate. He has a learning disability too. Daniel didn’t know anyone when he moved here from the city. I know what it’s like to be lonely so I introduced him to some of my friends.
We were at the DJ night last Thursday. With lockdown restrictions only a few people can attend so it was also streamed online.
Daniel and I both had a turn on the decks. It was such a good night!
It finished really late and we were both feeling hungry so we stopped to get pizza.
‘One Margherita and one Pepperoni please’
I was still waiting for my pizza when I heard a moped revving. The driver wasn’t looking where he was going.
Daniel could have been badly hurt. It was the driver’s fault but rather than apologise he started yelling at Daniel and calling him names. He said some really nasty things.
Daniel was OK but he was very upset. He told me it wasn’t the first time he’d been verbally abused because of his disability and the colour of his skin. That made me so angry. I wanted to go after the bully but Daniel told me not to.
I met Daniel at the skate park that weekend. We often hang out there and practice our tricks. I thought it would cheer him up but someone had scrawled horrible racist graffiti on one of the ramps and now Daniel doesn’t want to go there anymore.
A few days later I went round to Daniel’s house to check he was OK but he wouldn’t come out. He just wanted to stay at home and hide away. I couldn’t imagine ever feeling like that but that was before I made my big mistake.
I’ve spent loads of time on social media and I’m always receiving friend requests. I usually say no if I don’t know the person but one night I got a message from someone called Kaleb, asking me if I wanted to make some money. I accepted the friend request to find out more.
Kaleb seemed like a really nice guy and we chatted loads. He told me about his job delivering packages to help other people and asked if I wanted to join him. He also said that I would get a brand new phone. I just had to keep it a secret. It sounded really exciting and I wanted the money to buy a new X-Box so I said yes.
The next morning I couldn’t wait for my new phone to arrive. I tried to keep myself busy while I waited for the delivery driver. My new phone was the latest model and I couldn’t wait to show it to my friends.
I was on my way to meet them at the community café when Kaleb sent me a message asking me to collect a package in town and deliver it to someone who lived 20 miles away, but I had never been that far before without my support worker and I didn’t know which busses to get.
By the time I got into town it was really worrying me so I sent Kaleb a message to say that I didn’t want the work but he wouldn’t accept it and he kept on messaging me. I felt really pressured and confused. I didn’t want my friends to see me like that so I turned around and just went home.
I lost count of how many messages Kaleb sent me that day. I tried to ignore him but after a while I couldn’t. I got really scared when he said I owed him because of the new phone and I would be in big trouble with his mates if I didn’t do exactly what I was told. After what had happened to Daniel I was so scared I didn’t dare leave my flat.
I felt trapped. I didn’t know how to make it stop but I didn’t feel I could tell anyone what was going on, not even my support worker.
When the doorbell rang I was terrified it might be Kaleb or one of his mates.
It was such a relief to see Jess on the doorstep. That’s when the whole story came pouring out.
Jess thought I might be getting myself into a dangerous situation.
She encouraged me to talk to the police. I was still scared but Daniel said if I was brave enough to talk to the police then he would tell them about his problems too.
P.C. Jane, the Diversity and Equality Officer, was brilliant. PC Jane explained that what happened to me is called County Lines. Gangs often target young people to carry drugs for them. She said it’s happening more and more and those who are vulnerable or isolated are more at risk.
PC Jane said I’d done exactly the right thing to tell her and explained that if I had been caught carrying drugs then I would have been the one in trouble. I was so glad when she took the phone away and blocked Kaleb’s accounts on social media. I felt so much better because the nightmare was finally coming to an end.
There was also some good news for Daniel. The police knew about the discrimination and had caught the moped incident on CCTV. They are going to follow it up by cautioning the driver.
P.C. Jane asked if Daniel and I would talk about our experiences. She said it could help others who are at risk so now we join her on video calls to share our story.
It’s great to be part of the community again and it’s made me value my real friends more than ever.
It’s so important to report hate crime and get help as soon as possible. If you think that you or someone you know is a victim of hate crime then you can get help by contacting the police on 101.
And you can find further help and advice on these websites.
This film was made by United Response to highlight the issues of hate crime, county lines, and diversity and equality. Watch our Animation Diaries to find out more!