Child criminal exploitation

Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) is where a child or young person, male or female, is pressured or coerced into committing criminal offences.

It often involves gangs using children and vulnerable people to move drugs and money. Gangs establish a base, typically by taking over the homes of local vulnerable adults by force or coercion in a practice referred to as ‘cuckooing’. They then use young people to sell drugs, move money or carry out other criminal activity.

How does criminal exploitation affect young people?

Like other forms of abuse and exploitation, CCE exploitation:

  • can affect any child or young person (male or female) under the age of 18 years
  • can affect any vulnerable adult over the age of 18 years
  • can still be exploitation even if the activity appears consensual
  • can involve force and/or enticement-based methods of compliance and is often accompanied by violence or threats of violence
  • can be perpetrated by individuals or groups, males or females, and young people or adults
  • is typified by some form of power imbalance in favour of those perpetrating the exploitation. Whilst age may be the most obvious, this power imbalance can also be due to a range of other factors including gender, cognitive ability, physical strength, status, and access to economic or other resources.

What to look out for

Some indicators of involvement and exploitation are listed below, with those at the top of particular concern:

  • Persistently going missing from school or home and/or being found out-of-area
  • Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes, or mobile phones
  • Excessive receipt of texts and/or phone calls
  • Relationships with controlling and older individuals or groups
  • Leaving home or care without explanation
  • Suspicion of physical assault or unexplained injuries
  • Carrying weapons
  • Significant decline in school results and performance
  • Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks
  • Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being

What to do if you suspect child criminal exploitation

If you suspect a child is in immediate danger call the Police on 999.

If you know a child that you have concerns about but they are not in immediate danger, contact the Multi Agency Safeguarding Team (MASH).

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