Skip to main content

Child criminal exploitation

Child criminal exploitation is a form of child abuse.

It occurs when adults or older youths deceive, persuade, or force young people into committing crimes. This is usually linked to drug-dealing crimes, but it can also include other types of crime, such as burglary, theft, fraud, or violent crimes.

Any young person may be criminally exploited. Young people may not realise they are being used. Exploiters change how they operate to avoid detection.

There has been an increase in the targeting of girls, university students, ‘clean skins’: young people who are unknown to services.

Three models of exploitation

There are three models of child criminal exploitation: county lines exploitation, blurred lines, and traditional models of supply.

County lines exploitation

County lines groups often use violence, intimidation, or coercion to manipulate young people. Young people are trafficked into Wales from English cities and manipulated or coerced into transporting drugs, weapons, or money.

Blurred lines

In some parts of Wales, local groups have retained control over an area, and export drugs to other areas.

Young people may be trafficked by local groups from one part of Wales to another, or trafficked within the local area. They may sell drugs locally, using bus services to return home the same day.

Young people are harder to detect in blurred lines. They are less likely to be safeguarded.

Traditional models of supply

In some areas of Wales, drug supply has remained the same: controlled by local individuals or ‘crime families’. Criminality may be normalised in these communities.

Young people may be expected to go into the ‘family business’, or forced or deceived into criminality by family members. They may face threats of violence if they refuse.

These young people are less likely to be safeguarded or seen as victims: they are more likely to be seen as ‘choosing this lifestyle’.

How children are exploited

Modern slavery and trafficking

These terms are used when children or adults are exploited or coerced into a life of abuse and forced labour. They may be trafficked from one country to another, or from one part of a Welsh town to another.

Child sexual exploitation

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse that includes any form of sexual activity.

This can include adults or older youths developing a relationship with a young person so they can control or manipulate them. It does not have to include physical contact, and can happen through social media.

Some young people may be both criminally and sexually exploited, or one form of exploitation may be used to force them into the other.

Child financial exploitation

Child financial exploitation is when adults or older youths deceive young people into opening or handing over a bank account so that it can be used for money laundering.

There has also been an increase in ‘money flipping’, where adults or older youths offer to make short-term investments for a large return. Young people may send their savings via social media, but are blocked and cannot retrieve their money.