Criminals are using children all across the UK

Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) is a term used to describe when children and young people are manipulated or coerced into committing crimes.

Criminals groom boys and girls to carry out illegal activity on their behalf – such as selling and storing drugs, carrying weapons and committing burglary, robbery or theft.

Currently across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight we are seeing children and young people between the ages of nine and 17 being used by criminals.

The most common type of crimes they are becoming involved in is activity known as ‘County Lines’.

Children and young people caught up in CCE won’t always act like victims because they don’t often see themselves as victims.

This is because individuals or gangs who target children will often make them feel respected, important and protected.

Some children are also made to feel like they have no choice and will be scared to speak out about what is happening.

It is important we all remember children are often preyed on because they are vulnerable.

We must all work together to help put an end to this abuse.

The police, education, local councils and health organisations across Hampshire and the UIsle of Wight all have an important part to play in preventing children being exploited and deal with those responsible.

We also need your help to look after the children in your life. To know the signs and to act if you suspect a child is in danger.

Are you listening

A film entitled ‘Are you listening’ aims to raise awareness of the issue of CCE, some of the signs that could indicate a child is in danger and where you can go for help and support. It is important we all play an active role in tackling this issue.

The film focuses on four stories, which although fictional, are typical of the types of criminality children do become involved in.

Children won’t often just tell you if they are in trouble but there are often some obvious signs that could indicate they might need help.

The most obvious sign is a change in a child or young person’s behaviour from what is considered ‘normal’ for them.

Other signs include:

  • Withdrawal from usual group of friends and a mention of older or new friends
  • Having gifts, a new phone or money that can’t be accounted for
  • Becoming withdrawn or secretive
  • Receiving a large number of calls or messages to their phone or being worried about being away from their phone
  • A drop in grades or performance, as well as suspension or exclusion from school
  • Going missing from home or not showing up to school or regular afterschool groups or clubs
  • Become involved in low level criminality such as antisocial behaviour


If you suspect a child is being exploited try to talk to them. Children are more likely to open up to an adult they have an existing and trusting relationship with.

Next steps

If you think a child could be involved in this type of activity, you can contact Hampshire Constabulary on 101 or online. If you suspect a child is in immediate danger always call 999.

You can also call your local council children’s team for advice.

Children’s charities such as the Children’s Society and the NSPCC also have information and support which can help.