Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE)

While there is still no legal definition of ‘Child Criminal Exploitation’ or CCE, it is increasingly being recognised as a major factor behind crime in communities across Greater Manchester and the UK, while also simultaneously victimising vulnerable young people and leaving them at risk of harm.

CCE often occurs without the victim being aware that they are being exploited and involves young people being encouraged, cajoled or threatened to carry out crime for the benefit of others. In return they are offered friendship or peer acceptance, but also cigarettes, drugs (especially cannabis), alcohol or even food and accommodation.

Children as young as 10 or 11 are being groomed to enter gangs and commit crime on behalf of older criminals. These young people are being exploited and, by being persuaded or lured into carrying out illegal activities, often with the promise of something they desire as a reward, they become incredibly vulnerable.

Victims of CCE are often fearful of getting into trouble themselves – for the very actions they have been exploited into carrying out – so it can also be difficult to get these young people to come forward and speak out about their situation

What is County Lines (CL)?

CL is a term used to describe gangs, groups or drug networks that supply drugs from urban to suburban areas across the country, including market and coastal towns, using dedicated mobile phone lines or ‘deal lines’. They exploit children and vulnerable adults to move the drugs and money to and from the urban area, and to store the drugs in local markets. They will often use intimidation, violence and weapons, including knives, corrosives and firearms.

CL is a major, cross-cutting issue involving drugs, violence, gangs, safeguarding, criminal and sexual exploitation, modern slavery, and missing persons; and the response to tackle it involves the police, the National Crime Agency, a wide range of Government departments, local government agencies and voluntary and community sector organisations. CL activity and the associated violence, drug dealing and exploitation has a devastating impact on young people, vulnerable adults and local communities.

Spotting the signs

A young person’s involvement in CL activity often leaves signs. A young person might exhibit some of these signs, either as a member or as an associate of a gang dealing drugs. Any sudden changes in a young person’s lifestyle should be discussed with them. Some indicators of CL involvement and exploitation are listed below, with those at the top of particular concern:

  • Persistently going missing from school or home and / or being found out-of-area;
  • Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes, or mobile phones
  • Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls
  • Relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups
  • Leaving home / care without explanation
  • Suspicion of physical assault / unexplained injuries
  • Parental concerns
  • Carrying weapons
  • Significant decline in school results / performance
  • Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks
  • Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being

What is cuckooing?

  • Drug dealers use ‘cuckooing’ methods to target the most vulnerable individuals in our society.
  • Cuckooing may be happening in your area and we want you to know what it is, how to spot the signs and what to do;
  • Cuckooing happens when a drug-dealer befriends, blackmails, or extorts a vulnerable person who often lives alone - such as someone old, or someone with a drug addiction - then takes over their home and uses it as a place to sell drugs from;
  • The drug dealers then ‘pay’ the victim with drugs, usually crack cocaine and heroin, in exchange for staying at their home. Dealers sometimes also use the home as payment for a debt owed to them by the occupant;
  • They then use the home to run their CL drugs operation from, putting the occupant and consequently the local community at risk of violence;

Spot the signs of cuckooing:

  • Other people seen inside the house or flat who don’t normally live there
  • People coming and going from the property
  • More taxis and cars than usual appearing at the property
  • Not seeing the person who lives there as frequently
  • When you do see the occupant, they may appear anxious or distracted
  • Seeing drugs paraphernalia near to the property

 If you spot any of these signs you can speak to local police on 101 or call 999 in an emergency;

  • If you’d rather stay anonymous you can call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Spot the signs and report

If you work with young people and vulnerable adults we need your help to spot the signs of CL:

Vulnerable children and adults are being used in CL drug dealing. If you work with young people or vulnerable adults, for example health professionals, teachers, social workers, we need your help to spot the signs and speak out if you have concerns;

  • Even if you’re not sure, trust your instincts and you might help safeguard a young or vulnerable person;
  • Children aged 15-17 make up the bulk of young people involved in CL, and we know both girls and boys are groomed, exploited and threatened with violence if they don’t comply;
  • They are exposed to physical, mental and sexual abuse, and in some instances will be trafficked to areas a long way from home as part of the network’s drug dealing business;
  • Often the people don’t see themselves as victims, they are flattered by the attention and gifts they receive, so it’s up to us all to spot the signs
  • Figures from National Referral Mechanism released recently showed the number of modern slavery cases involving UK minors went from 676 in 2017 to 1,421 in 2018.

Some signs of CL are:

  • An increase in visitors or cars to a house or flat;
  • Regularly changing residents;
  • Substance misuse or drug paraphernalia;
  • Changes in young people: new unaffordable things, going missing, unexplained injuries;
  • If you have concerns, trust your instincts.

What you can do to help tackle CL:

  • You can speak to local police on 101 or call 999 in an emergency;
  • If you’d rather stay anonymous you can call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111;
  • If you are a young person who is worried about being involved in CL, or knows someone who is, you can speak to an adult and let them know how you feel;
  • You can also contact who allow you to pass on information about crime anonymously;
  • You can also contact Childline on 0800 1111 – they are a private and confidential service where you can talk to counsellors about anything that is worrying you.

The Home Office has published guidance for frontline professionals on dealing with CL, this is part of the government’s approach to ending gang violence and exploitation.

The Guidance outlines what CL is, signs to look for in potential victims and what to do about it.