What is it?
Criminal exploitation is where children receive something such as gifts, money or protection before being forced into criminal activities such as drug dealing. Criminal exploitation is usually carried out within gangs and in some cases young people are forced to carry and deal drugs around the country in what is known as county lines.
Those at Risk
All children and young people are at risk of Gangs/criminal exploitation (not just boys) however those with low self esteem, substance use, susceptible to peer pressure, from low income families and those who disobey authority are more vulnerable.
How it happens (Grooming)
Young people are groomed by adults or other young people. The offender will try to build an emotional connection from the young person to them and will develop a fake relationship with them. Young people will be recruited into feeling they are not being used, and introduced to a lifestyle they feel is normal. Once they are being exploited young people feel they can not easily change their situation due to the control they are under and lack of power they have.
Why do young people join gangs?
What are the consequences of gang involvement?
- Secretive behaviour inc use of mobile phone
- New ‘friends’, some may be significantly older
- New experiences e.g parties
- Being asked to send sexually explicit images online
- Breakdown in friendships/family support
- Absence from school
- Physical injuries
- Involvement in offending
- Self-harm and/or thoughts of or attempts at suicide
- Being found out of area
- Looking dishevelled/tired
- Large quantities of drugs or money.
- Blades, knives or weapons.
- Change in behaviour - Positive or negative
- Reports of being taken to places by unknown adults
- Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
- Fear of reprisal or violence from young people or adults
- Regularly missing
- Expensive goods
- Multiple phones
What Parents/Carers could be doing
Talk to your child about the negative consequences of gang behaviors and ways to avoid them
Be clear that you disapprove of gangs and do not want to see your child hurt or arrested.
Be firm in your expectations that your child should NOT:
Associate with any gang-involved individuals.
Hang out where gang members congregate.
Attend any party or social event sponsored by gangs.
Use any kind of hand or finger signs that may be meaningful to gangs, especiallyin pictures (even as a joke).
Wear clothing that may have meaning to gangs in your area.
Get to know your child’s friends and the friends’ parents
Be aware of their attitudes toward drugs, alcohol, and gangs.
Familiarize yourself with the Internet, popular slang terms, and your child’s online activity
Talk to your child about ways to deal with pressure from friends
Limit interaction with gang-involved individuals
Set firm limits with your child
Plan family time
Provide an open environment where worries/concerns of your child can be discussedopenly
Try not to focus on your child's behaviours but what led them to that behaviour