Child criminal exploitation and County Lines

If you think a child or vulnerable adult is at risk of criminal or sexual exploitation in Norfolk:

  • Call 0344 800 8020 and speak to someone at Norfolk Children’s Advice and Duty Service (CADS)
  • Ring 101 to speak to Norfolk Police.  In an emergency always dial 999.
  • Ring 0800 555 111 for Crimestoppers or contact them via the Crimestoppers website

What is Child Criminal Exploitation?

Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) is where an individual or group uses their position of power to take advantage of a child or young person under the age of 18 and coerces, controls, manipulates or deceives them into criminal activity.

This could be:

  • In exchange for something the victim needs or wants such as money, clothes, mobile phones
  • For the financial gain or other advantage of the perpetrator or facilitator
  • Through violence or the threat of violence

CCE involves children with many vulnerabilities being exposed to, and/or being a victim of: physical and emotional violence, neglect, going missing, sexual abuse, sexual grooming and exploitation, modern day slavery, human trafficking and domestic abuse.

Even if the activity appears to be consensual, the victim may have been criminally exploited.  CCE does not always involve physical contact, it can also happen through use of technology.  This could include making contact through social media and posting videos on YouTube which glamorise gang violence, drug taking and knife crime, as well as using and making music videos to make threats to other young people.

County Lines

County Lines is a term used to describe the involvement of organised criminal networks and street gangs in moving illegal drugs from cities to other parts of the UK.  In Norfolk, the originating city is usually London.

Much of the activity and ‘business’ is conducted over a dedicated mobile phone line.  Criminal networks involved in County Lines often exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store drugs, money and weapons.  This is frequently reinforced through coercion, intimidation and violence, including the use of sexual violence and weapons.

There is a growing concern about CCE in Norfolk and specifically the links to ‘County Lines’.

Know the warning signs

Evidence shows that any child displaying several of the signs detailed below should be considered to be at high risk of child criminal exploitation.  Get in touch with a professional immediately to help determine the risk and provide preventive and protective action as required.

Certain situations and experiences can make children and young people more vulnerable to criminal exploitation, including:

  • Living in a household where there has been neglect and/or abuse
  • Witnessing or being involved in domestic abuse and violence in relationships
  • Having parents or carers who experience substance misuse and/or who have mental health issues
  • High levels of poverty in the family home and immediate environment
  • A lack of positive relationships and role models
  • Homelessness 
  • Living in care or leaving care
  • Having learning disabilities and specific needs
  • Having mental health problems
  • Substance misuse
  • Not having or attending education, training or employment
  • Involved in anti-social or offending behaviour and/or having contact with peers who are being exploited or are involved in offending behaviour
  • Association with gangs either through relatives, peers or intimate relationships
  • Exposure to or experience of, violent crime

Children who have been criminally or sexually exploited or who are vulnerable to exploitation may exhibit these signs and behaviours:

  • Frequently going missing - sometimes overnight but also unexplained absences during the day
  • Being found out of their home area, for example Norfolk young people being found in London or urban areas outside the county
  • Having cash, mobile phones, clothing, underwear, sexual items, jewellery, new haircuts or other items and gifts.  Parents/carers don't know how the young person got them and the young person cannot explain where they came from or who gave them to them.
  • Increased use of taxis as a mode of transport
  • Unexpected and/or concerning changes in behaviour for example becoming secretive, withdrawn, isolated; not mixing with or talking about their usual friends; changing friendship groups; having or talking about new friends
  • Not attending or enjoying school, college, training or employment
  • Becoming disruptive, hostile or physically aggressive at home or school, including the use of sexualised language and language related to drug dealing and/or violence
  • Acting or talking as though they are invincible or not caring about what happens to them
  • Anxiety
  • Unusual or different use of social media
  • Increased interest in making money

These signs and behaviours may be seen in children who are already being exploited:

  • Being arrested out of area — especially for drug related offences
  • Found with large quantities of drugs or weapons
  • Returned from missing episodes with injuries, or dishevelled appearance/ looking unwell
  • Reports of being taken to parties, people’s houses, unknown areas, hotels, nightclubs, takeaways or out of area by unknown adults or taken to make music videos
  • Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
  • Fear of reprisal or violence from young people or adults
  • Pregnancy and frequent sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

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