Skip to main content

Understanding child criminal exploitation

Any young person from any background can be criminally exploited.

Exploiters look for young people who are less likely to be suspected by their parents, teachers, the police and other adults. Exploiters use girls and young people from loving homes to commit crimes. They also use young people from all different ethnicities.

Parents and carers are not to blame. Exploiters use sophisticated ways of making young people trust them.

Young people may not realise

Young people may think the exploiters are their friends.

They may think exploiters care about them because they take them out for food, buy them things or protect them.

Exploiters may encourage young people to think they care about them more than their families. They may try to isolate young people from their parents and carers and/or threaten them with violence.

Friends and food

When young people are offered friendship, days out, and the chance to be part of a group, they may not know they are being used. They may think the exploiters care about them and will help them.

Rather than confronting them, parents and carers may want to try encouraging their child to think about what they have to do in return for this ‘friendship’.

Exploiters promise ‘easy money’

Young people may think that the exploiters are helping them to earn large sums of money so they can support their families or buy the things they see on social media, like expensive trainers, branded clothing and luxury cars.

Finance and fear

Young people may believe this is the only way they can earn money to support themselves. Often they only realise they are being used when it is too late. They are threatened or subjected to violence. They may feel afraid, responsible, or ashamed.

Young people are never responsible for being criminally exploited. They are victims of more powerful individuals or groups who are skilled in deceiving young people to force them into crime. Exploiters hide behind young people.