Child Criminal Exploitation

Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) is a form of abuse where criminal networks or gangs exploit children, young people and/or vulnerable adults to carry out criminal activity (Home Office, 2018). CCE is strongly associated with the rapidly evolving elicit drug supply, often referred to as ‘County Lines’. Criminal gangs often use children and young people to distribute drugs, thus reducing the risk of prosecution and violence directed to themselves (Robinson, McLean & Densley, 2018). Children, young people or vulnerable adults are often required to travel outside of their local area, often to rural areas, to distribute drugs and establish new customers. The true prevalence of CCE remains relatively unknown, however the Children’s Commissioner estimates that at least 46,000 children are currently affiliated with criminal gangs (The Children’s Society, 2019).

Similar to child sexual exploitation, CCE occurs when there is an imbalance of power. The perpetrator may threaten the child or their family with violence in order to coerce the child into criminal activity. They may also be given gifts or money, with the aim of ‘grooming’ the child or young person. This process often results in the child feeling that they are in debt to their exploiter. CCE may involve both direct and indirect forms of communication with the child, with many children being targeted remotely, for example through social media (Storrod & Densley, 2017).

Research into the risk factors for child criminal exploitation is emerging, which highlights the importance of treating the child or vulnerable adult as a victim, rather than a suspect. CCATS provide both assessment and intervention for young people and adults who are vulnerable to criminal exploitation, or who have experienced exploitation of this kind. We also work with professionals to raise awareness and understanding of CCE. CCATS can provide specialist training for organisations working with this client population, which can outline the risk and protective factors, alongside effective management strategies.