Gangs, Criminal Exploitation & County Lines


What is Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE)?

This 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 into any criminal activity in exchange for something the victim needs or wants and/or for the financial or other advantage of the perpetrator or facilitator and/or through violence or the threat of violence. The victim may have been criminally exploited even if the activity appears consensual. CCE does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology” (Home Office, 2018).

Children can be groomed, manipulated, or forced into drug dealing and other crimes. Exploiters will exploit children online and / or in the community.

It can be difficult to know what to do to help protect children who are being criminally exploited, especially as some children do not recognise that they are being exploited and some do not feel safe enough to say what is happening.

As a parent / carer what signs should I look out for?

  • Spending time with people you don't know or aren't sure about.
  • Going missing from home or school (even for a few hours).
  • Getting into trouble at school.
  • Having unexplained new items (phones, clothes, etc.).
  • Getting involved with crimes
  • Having unexplained injuries.
  • Losing interest in their existing hobbies.
  • Becoming secretive.
  • Not telling you where they have been or why they returned late.
  • Increased activity on their phone (either calls, messages, or apps) and their response.

As a parent / carer what can I do?

  • Talk to your child and listen.
  • Try and keep lines of communication open with them.
  • Show an interest in what they do and who they are with.
  • Know who your child is with and where.
  • Talk with them about the dangers of county lines and gangs.
  • Let them know it is not their fault if this happens.
  • If you are worried that your child could come to harm, report your concerns to Customer First on 0808 800 4005.
  • If you are worried that your child is at immediate risk of harm, call 999.

Where can I get help in Suffolk?

Suffolk County Council

Local support for parents and carers

Diversion Programme – Suffolk Youth Justice Service

This voluntary programme is designed to offer help and support to young people who are at risk of offending and anti-social behaviour. Suffolk Youth Justice Service offer a programme of work, which is created in collaboration with the young person (and their families). A plan is created with the aim of reducing the likelihood of offending or re-offending. Referrals are accepted from Children and Young People's Services; educational establishments; the police and parents / carers. All referrals are then assessed to see if they meet the criteria for further intervention work with the youth justice service.

Suffolk Police

Gangs / County Lines – Information and Advice - Suffolk Constabulary

National organisations that can help

Parents Against Child Exploitation (Pace) UK

PACE provide information and support for parents / carers concerned about child exploitation.

Be SPACE aware

Provide information and support for parents / carers concerned about criminal exploitation.


If you have information on child exploitation and abuse or suspect it may be happening but want to remain completely anonymous, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers online or on the phone. Call 0800 555 111.

Protecting children from county lines - NSPCC Learning

The NSPCC helpline is staffed by trained professionals who can provide expert advice and support if you’re concerned about a child. Call on 0808 800 5000.


Fearless is a site where you can access non-judgemental information and advice about crime and criminality. They provide a safe place to give information about crime 100% anonymously.

Call the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also report to the police online. Only report your concerns when it is safe for you to do so, even if this is after the event that your concerns initially arose.  Do not attempt to intervene yourself.

British Transport Police

If you are on a train, you can text the British Transport Police on 61016. Information on routes of travel, addresses, appearance, and behaviour of a child can all help to protect children.

Useful resources and support


Groomsafe is a website dedicated to informing parents, carers, and teaching professionals by raising awareness of exploitation. Groomsafe seeks to safeguard children and young adults against the dangers of specific manipulation whether it is sexual or criminally motivated.

5 Big Questions for Parents/Carers who are worried about their young people and gangs 

Youth Intervention Expert Junior Smart talks about the 5 key questions that every parent/ caregiver should consider if they have concerns.

Guidance for parents around County Lines

Overview from Junior Smart providing information and guidance for parents around county lines and where to access support.

NSPCC - Criminal Exploitation and Gangs

NSPCC advice about how to spot the signs of criminal exploitation and involvement in gangs and what support is available for children.

Child Safety Online

A practical guide for parents and carers whose children are using social media.

Children's Society

The Children’s Society website provides a range of resources. Their #LookCloser campaign encourages everyone to learn the signs of child exploitation and how to report it.