Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE)
Child criminal exploitation (CCE) is a growing issue where children and young people are targeted by criminals and gangs to get them to engage in criminal activity, such as stealing or carrying drugs or weapons.
The child or young person might be abused or put into dangerous positions. This is sometimes known as county lines.
County lines is the term for urban gangs who supply drugs to suburban areas, market and coastal towns around the UK using dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal lines”. It involves child criminal exploitation (CCE) as gangs use children and vulnerable people to move drugs and money. Gangs establish a base in the market location, typically by taking over the homes of local vulnerable adults by force or coercion in a practice referred to as ‘cuckooing’.
The Children’s Commissioner estimates that there are at least 46,000 children in England who are involved in gang activity. These children are often brought into exploitation through the process of threatening, tricking, or grooming.
Grooming involves building a relationship, trust, and emotional connection with the child or young person so that they can be taken advantage of and exploited. The forms of relationship a groomer can build includes romantic relationships, mentorships, and relationships can be built via social media, messaging apps, on games and apps, or in person. A groomer will often give the child or young person a lot of attention, gifts, and take them on trips/outings or holidays.
Children and young people who have been exploited should always be treated as victims rather than suspects.