Child criminal exploitation (CCE) can be defined as: Child criminal exploitation is common in county lines and occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, control, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18. The victim may have been criminally exploited even if the activity appears consensual. Child criminal exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology. Reflecting on the definition of exploitation, the language makes specific mention of the ‘criminal activity appearing consensual’, but no child can consent to their own exploitation, even if it appears consensual.
Criminal exploitation of children is broader than just county lines and includes for instance children forced to work on cannabis farms or to commit theft.
What is a gang?
When applying the term ‘gang’ to groups of young people we can mistakenly assign attributes of an ‘organised crime group’ to an ordinary ‘peer group’. This can lead to aspects of youth culture incorrectly being attributed to the hallmarks of a gang.
The term ‘Organised Crime Group’ or ‘Serious Organised Crime Group’ (OCG/ SOCG) refers to a group of people who organise around a common identifying feature for the purpose of committing crime.
County lines provides a good description of the organised crime gangs operate, but from the point of view of identification and safeguarding may lead to professionals forming wrong conceptions about how children are exploited. E.g. Organised crime gangs are changing the model and are targeting local children to avoid detection or forcing children to go missing in certain patterns. It is important that the focus is always on identifying a vulnerable child.
Organised crime groups (OCGs)
Organised crime groups (OCGs) vary in their structure. OCGs often consist of a group of key individuals with a cluster of specialists and transient members, plus an extended network of associates. These associate relationships can be formed through experience or strong family bonds. Young people are forced to harm other people as a form of control and to be considered as valuable to the organised crime group.