Any child could be exploited by criminals
As they're growing up, young people go through lots of changes. They will naturally become more independent as they develop their own identity and are more likely to be impulsive and take risks. This behaviour is perfectly normal, however organised crime groups can see the young person as someone who can be easily manipulated or intimidated into doing what they want, and this can lead to child criminal exploitation.
Parents and carers are often the first to notice the early signs that their child may be being exploited.
You might notice that your child is behaving differently, over and above what you would expect from typical teenage behaviour.
Here's some of the signs to be aware of
A sudden change in attitude. Have they become secretive and disrespectful all of a sudden?
Are they showing signs of harm or depression? Are they missing from school?
Lots of money
Do they seem to have money which they can’t explain where it has come from? They could have a new or different phone and other expensive items such as designer clothes.
Have you found them to have unusual items such as a balaclava, debit cards, drugs or weapons?
Are they receiving calls and messages more frequently, and at all hours of the day? Do they react immediately when they receive the message? Do they have a new group of friends who seem older?
Have you found evidence such as bus or train tickets, which show that they have been making frequent and repeat trips to places they wouldn’t normally go? Do they often leave without an explanation of where they are going?
There may be many reasons for a change in your child’s behaviour and it may not be anything to worry about. But if you notice a combination of the above signs and you are concerned, it may be time to seek help or advice.
Children and young people can be exploited by organised crime groups who build up a friendship, but then force them into criminal activities such as transporting, storing or selling drugs, money laundering and violence.
The young person often doesn’t realise they are being exploited. They are led to believe that the offender is their friend, as they are often offered gifts such as money, cigarettes, drugs and alcohol.
The risks to the young person can range from losing interest in school and friends to sexual abuse or serious injury.
Any child can be targeted by these criminals, regardless of their background or where they live. It is never the fault of the young person or their parents or carers.
If you are worried about a young person that you know West Yorkshire Police has specially trained officers in Safeguarding Units across the county who can help.
- Call 101 in a non-emergency or use the Live Chat function here.
- Call 999 in an emergency, where a crime is in progress or there is a danger to life.
If you would rather not speak to the Police there are other people who can offer help and advice :
- Talk to a teacher of School Liaison Officer at your child’s school
- You can speak to your GP or nurse
- Speak to your Family Support Worker if you have one
- Charities who specialise in this area are listed below
How to help before your child becomes a target
- Speak to your child and make them aware of the risks. Let them know that this can happen to any child, including them
- Warn them not to accept money, food or favours from someone they don’t know well, or if it doesn’t feel right
- Make time every day to talk with your child and listen to what is happening in their life, including who they are friends with – both in person and online
0808 800 5000
- Childrens Society
- SPACE – Stop & Prevent Adolescent Criminal Exploitation
- Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation
0113 240 3040
- Yorkshire MESMAC
- The Lucy Faithfull Foundation
- The Marie Collins Foundation
- Safer Lives
0800 043 5987
Types of Child Criminal Exploitation
There are many different crime types which make up child criminal exploitation and the names for these that are used by young people change all the time.
Some examples include :
- Money laundering – also known as ‘Money Mules’ or ‘Squaring’
This is where the young person is asked to use their own bank account to hold or move money that has been involved in criminal activity.
More information about 'Money Mules' or 'Squaring'
- Child sexual exploitation
This is the organisation and deliberate exploitation of a child for the sexual gratification of adults. It can take place in person or over the internet.
More information about Child sexual exploitation
- County lines
Organised crime groups take advantage of young people and use them to move drugs around the country.
More information about county lines
This is part of county lines, where crime groups take over someone’s address, usually as a place to store, supply or produce drugs from.
More information about 'Cuckooing'
Page last reviewed March 2021