Warwickshire Police and Warwickshire County Council are running a week of awareness activity in the lead up to National Child Exploitation Day on 18 March.
Today the public are being urged to look out for the signs of children being exploited by county lines drug gangs.
County lines is a form of criminal exploitation where young people from large cities are exploited to transport drugs to smaller towns.
County lines gangs are highly organised criminal networks who use a range of techniques to groom young people to get them involved in their criminal enterprise.
The grooming process will often involve:
- Seeking out a child to exploit
- Observing the child for vulnerabilities
- Finding out what the child’s needs and wants are
- Manipulating the child into believing that being in a gang can fulfil these needs.
The child will often be offered money and status to attract them.
Gangs target vulnerable children in the following settings:
- Schools, and further and higher educational institutions
- Special educational needs schools
- Places for alternative provision outside of mainstream education
- Foster homes
- Homeless shelters.
Factors that make a child more susceptible to being exploited include:
- Having previously experience neglect, physical and/or sexual abuse in the past
- Social isolation or social difficulties
- Homelessness or insecure accommodation status
- Connections with other people involved in gangs
- Having a learning disability
- Having mental health problems
- Having substance misuse issues
- Being in care or having a history of being in care
- Being excluded from mainstream education
Signs that someone is being criminally exploited include:
- frequently going missing from school, home or care
- travelling to locations, or being found in areas they have no obvious connections with, including seaside or market towns
- unwillingness to explain their whereabouts
- acquiring money, clothes, accessories or mobile phones which they seem unable to account for
- receiving excessive texts or phone calls at all hours of the day
- having multiple mobile phone handsets or sim cards
- withdrawing or having sudden changes in personality, behaviour or the language they use
- having relationships with controlling or older individuals and groups
- unexplained injuries
- carrying weapons
- significant decline in school results or performance
- being isolated from peers or social networks
- associating with or being interested in gang culture
- self-harming or having significant changes in mental health
If you’re concerned about drug-related crime in your area or think someone may be a victim of drug exploitation, please call police on 101.
If it’s an emergency, please call 999.
You can also report it online, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via www.crimestoppers-uk.org
Further information and support
- The National Crime Agency County Lines website explains more about county lines and indicators of exploitation in your area.
- Safe 4 Me has details about support services nationally for young people impacted by Child Criminal and Sexual Exploitation. They also have lots of information regarding specific forms of exploitation, understanding trauma, rights and the law and much more.
- The Safeguarding Network have helpful tips for understanding indicators of exploitation and what may make a young person more vulnerable to being exploited.
- The NSPCC Net-Aware website offers guidance on understanding specific apps and platforms that young people may be using.
Posted by SJC, Corporate Communications