Cambridgeshire police urge residents to spot signs of child exploitation in awareness appeal
- Credit: Archant
Cambridgeshire police are urging residents to look closer to spot signs of exploitation of children and young people in a bid to raise awareness of the issue.
Officers are working alongside The Children’s Society to help spread the message on how to identify victims and report concerns of exploitation by county lines criminals.
County lines is where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, usually across police and local authority borders by children or vulnerable people who are coerced by gangs.
Detective Chief Inspector Chris O’Brien, the force’s tactical lead for county lines, is now urging those who work or visit these areas to learn how to spot the signs of exploitation to keep young people safe.
“We often hear that victims of county lines criminality don’t know they are being exploited or don’t have the confidence to report it because they fear there may be consequences,” he said.
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“Children and young people who are being exploited may not always appear vulnerable or act the way we may expect victims should. If something doesn’t feel right, it may not be.”
Public spaces like bus and train stations, fast food outlets, hotels and roadside services can also be where young victims of exploitation are most visible.
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“Those working in the service, retail or transport industry are in a position to spot signs of exploitation and abuse. Report it to us and collectively we can safeguard more young people,” Det Chief Insp O’Brien added.
Once coerced by gangs, drug dealers get young people to deliver their drugs by paying them or forcing them through violence and grooming, which can affect boys and girls regardless of their background or culture.
Some of the signs and indicators of a young person being exploited include:
- Travelling alone, particularly in school hours, late at night or frequently
- Looking lost or in unfamiliar surroundings
- Anxious, frightened, angry or displaying other behaviours that make you worried about them
- In possession of more than one phone
- Carrying lots of cash
- Potentially under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Being instructed or controlled by another individual
- Accompanied by individuals who are older than them
- Seen begging in a public place
To anonymously report a sign of someone at risk of child exploitation, visit https://bit.ly/3hy6xOf.