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

Animatged image showing text saying 'Signs to be aware of : behaviour / distant / lots of money / unusual items / popular / unusual journeys'


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.

Unusual items

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?

Any child could be exploited by criminals (image replicates text elsewhere on this page)

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.

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




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 : 


Page last reviewed March 2021

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