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Police, local authorities, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, young people and an MP have launched a campaign to stop criminal gangs from grooming children and vulnerable adults to commit crime.
The campaign, known as ‘Trapped’, aims to raise awareness of criminals who are grooming and exploiting children and young adults to commit crime on their behalf.
Offenders take victims from urban areas to the countryside or coastal areas to sell drugs. Sometimes victims are trafficked closer to home, and are moved around the city or town where they live.
As well as drug dealing, victims are sometimes asked to carry out other forms of criminal activity such as arson, violent offences, storing firearms, holding money, criminal damage or assault. Offenders use coercive behaviour to threaten and exploit victims and their families.
Victims can become trapped in a spiral of debt and intimidation but there is a way out and police are joining local authorities, school representatives and community groups to take a stand against these types of exploitation.
Chief Superintendent Mary Doyle from Greater Manchester Police’s Serious Crime Division said: “Offenders use intimidation to exploit and control children and vulnerable adults to carry out criminal activity on their behalf.
“The people they are targeting are often singled out because they may have a troubled life at home, are in the care system or are being bullied and looking for protection.
“Those being subjected to these hideous crimes are victims, not criminals, and I want to reassure anybody who feels trapped that there is a way out and we will listen to what you have to say.”
Ann Coffey, MP and Chair of the All Party Group for Runaway and Missing Children, said: “Children are being used by gangs who are making millions of pounds a year selling illegal drugs.
“These criminal cowards hide behind children and get them to do their dirty work. “As the gangs expand into new markets more and more children are being drawn into this frightening life, which often ends in drug addiction, debt and brutal violence.
“Communities, schools, parents and agencies must all work together with the police to raise awareness of this gross exploitation and to prevent more children's lives being ruined.”
Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Baroness Beverley Hughes, said: “The exploitation of another human being for personal gain is vile and unforgivable. That many of those exploited are vulnerable children is especially abhorrent, 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.
This campaign will help people recognise when they are being targeted for exploitation and tell them how to get help and report it.”
The ‘Trapped’ campaign is really important as child exploitation damages the lives and life chances of a significant number people of young people across the UK.
“We want to share our experience and to discuss the impact this issue has on young people, we want to look to solutions that mean young people can grow up without being subjected to exploitation.”
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
Anyone with concerns either about themselves or somebody else should contact South Wales Police on 101 in a non-emergency situation or report anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Always dial 999 when there is an immediate threat to life or a crime in progress.
To watch the ‘Trapped’ video click here.
For further information visit the website here.