Criminal Exploitation

Criminal exploitation is illegal.

When someone is persuaded, coerced or forced into criminal activity in exchange for gifts, money, drugs, alcohol, reward, or status, they are being exploited.

Exploitation occurs when an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a person into sexual/criminal behaviour.

Children and young people may be manipulated and coerced into committing crimes. This may be in exchange for something e.g. alcohol, drugs, food, clothing or even to avoid threats of harm, receive financial advantage creased status of the perpetrator.

Criminal exploitation is child abuse where children and young people are manipulated and coerced into committing crimes.

The word ‘gang’ means different things in different contexts, It's not illegal for a young person to be in a gang – there are different types of ‘gang’ and not every ‘gang’ is criminal or dangerous. However, gang membership can be linked to illegal activity, particularly organised criminal gangs involved in trafficking, drug dealing and violent crime.

The government differentiates between different types of gang with the following definitions.

  • Peer group – A relatively small and transient social grouping which may or may not describe themselves as a gang depending on the context.
  • Street gang – Groups of young people who see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group for whom crime and violence is integral to the group’s identity.
  • Organised criminal gangs – A group of individuals for whom involvement in crime is for personal gain (financial or otherwise). For most crime is their ‘occupation.

County lines is the name given by police to drug dealing where organised urban gangs and criminal groups use phone lines to move and supply drugs, usually from cities into smaller towns and rural areas.

This often involves exploitation of young people. Those as young as 12 years old have been exploited into carrying drugs for gangs.

Organised criminal gangs groom children and young people because they’re less suspicious and are given lighter sentences than adults.

Anyone can be a victim of criminal exploitation whatever your background, circumstances, gender or age. 

There are a number of dangers associated with criminal exploitation they include:

  • being subject to threats, blackmail and violence
  • being exploited and forced to commit crimes
  • being arrested, including for crimes committed by the gang that they have not directly committed under the law of joint enterprise
  • not being able to leave or cut off ties with the gang
  • having their safety or the safety of friends and family threatened
  • risk of physical harm, rape and sexual abuse
  • risk of emotional abuse
  • risk of severe injury or being killed
  • abusing drugs, alcohol and other substances
  • long term impact on education and employment options.

If you are worried please check out the who can help tab to find out where to get support.

It’s against the law to carry a weapon – like knives, guns or acid – even if it’s meant for protection. 

Carrying a weapon like a knife could mean being arrested, going to court and ending up with a criminal record or even a prison sentence. This can affect the rest of your life.

Having a criminal record can make getting a job, going to university or college or even travelling abroad to some countries difficult.

The safest thing to do if there’s a threat is to contact the police, not to carry weapons for self-defence.

If you are worried you are at risk or has been threatened call the Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.

Contact the NSPCC helpline to speak to trained professionals about what is happening, who can take action and who can signpost you to the right services and support agencies in your area.

The Children’s Society provide useful information and resources if you are a parent or guardian and you have concerns about a young person. A lot of this talks about criminal exploitation through County Lines and that might not be the exact experience of your child. However, the resources and information. The Children’s Society provide cover all forms of criminal exploitation.  

The Modern Slavery Helpline offers advice to concerned members of the public, parents, family members and professionals around modern slavery and trafficking. If a young person you know is being moved around the country, they may be a victim of trafficking. 

London Gang Exit works with young people aged 16-24 who are affected, associated or affiliated with gang issues or serious violence and helps young Londoners to move away from the gang.

St Giles Trust works with young people, parents and communities to support children and young people to think critically, assess risk and make better life choices, making them more resilient to the risks of becoming involved in gangs, exploitation and violence.

Barnardo's offer services to support and safeguard children and young people across the UK.  Their website gives more information on what services they provide in your area.

Victim Support – this national charity can help you and your child if they have been a victim of knife crime.

PACE UK – Parents against child exploitation: This charity supported parents and carers whose children are being exploited by offenders outside of the family

Mothers Against Violence – a voluntary group of mothers who have been affected in some way by gun and knife violence. – an online knife crime resource offering advice and support.