People that have been groomed to commit crime are being urged to come forward and report their concerns as part of a week of action to raise awareness of criminal exploitation.
The ‘Trapped’ campaign was launched in October last year to raise awareness of criminals who are grooming and exploiting children and vulnerable adults to commit crime on their behalf.
Greater Manchester Police has identified 25 victims of criminal exploitation since 1 January 2018. In addition, 67 pieces of information have been received relating to people being criminal exploited since the ‘Trapped’ campaign launched in October.
County Lines is a form of criminal exploitation and sees offenders moving children or vulnerable people for the purposes of selling drugs. They could be trafficked around the local area, or taken from urban areas to countryside or coastal areas to sell drugs.
Victims could also be criminally exploited and forced to carry out other crimes such as arson, violent offences, criminal damage, assault or robbery. They could also be forced to store firearms or money.
Offenders groom, threaten, force or trick victims into carrying out their crimes. If the victim doesn’t comply the offender may use violence, or threaten the victim’s family to ensure they get what they want. Gifts may be given to the victim as a reward to keep them on side which leads them to becoming trapped in a spiral of intimidation, fear and debt.
Throughout the week officers will be taking to the streets to talk to communities about criminal exploitation and how victims can get help. They will also be delivering presentations in schools, providing training to parents and carers and visiting children’s homes to raise awareness of the campaign.
Detective Superintendent Jon Chadwick said: “Offenders deliberately prey on some of the most vulnerable people within our communities and use coercive and controlling behaviour to threaten and exploit victims and their families.
“This type of crime is completely unacceptable and we will take robust action against any offenders causing misery to people’s lives in order to fulfil their own gains.
“We’re thankful to everyone that has come forward and already reported criminal exploitation but we need more people to talk to us so we can stop these offenders causing further fear on our streets.
“I understand it may be difficult to pick up the phone but we can help you find a way out. If it’s happening to you or somebody you know please call Greater Manchester Police on 101. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to the police, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 instead.”
Gail Hopper, director of children’s services at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “This is a developing and hideous example of how vulnerable adults and children are being targeted and exploited across the country. I would ask anyone who is worried to share their concern – with the police, Crimestoppers or a trusted person. If you are a parent or neighbour who sees things happening that look wrong please share your worries. There is help available. There is no reason why any child should be forced into a life of crime. Getting to know more about the people behind this type of offending will make it easier for us to disrupt it and prevent other children from being targeted.”
Beverley Hughes, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime said: “Children and adults are being trapped by criminals into terrifying situations: exploited, threatened, often physically abused and forced into crime. Children and young people are particularly vulnerable to being groomed in this way. It is a vile form of modern slavery and we will do all we can to prevent children and young people falling prey to these criminals.
“Whether a young person or an adult, help is available, and the police and other partner agencies are working together to support victims and bring those responsible to justice. We need the support of the people of Greater Manchester to help prevent further people from being exploited so please contact us if you have been or know somebody that has been a victim of this despicable crime.”
Some signs that a young or vulnerable person could be ‘Trapped’ and need help are:
- Young people going missing and travelling to seaside or market towns
- School absence or missing from school
- Money, clothes or accessories which they are unable to account for
- Receiving an excessive amount of texts and phone calls
- Relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups
- Carrying weapons
- Significant decline in school results / performance
- Self-harm or significant changes in emotional wellbeing
To report a crime call Greater Manchester Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. Alternatively call the Modern Slavery Helpline 08000 121 700.
To pass on information anonymously call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.