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Look closer and think exploitation

15 Sep 2020

Police are urging the people of Cambridgeshire to look closer in order to spot children and young people who are being exploited by county lines criminals.

Together with The Children’s Society, the force is raising awareness of how to identify victims and report concerns.

County lines is where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority borders, usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs,

Drug dealers get young people to deliver their drugs, by paying them or by forcing them through violence and grooming. It is a crime that can affect girls and boys, regardless of their background or culture.

Public spaces like bus and train stations, fast food outlets, hotels and roadside services can be where young victims of exploitation are most visible.

Detective Chief Inspector Chris O‘Brien, the force’s tactical lead for county lines, is urging those who work in or visit these areas to learn how to spot the signs of a young person being exploited so we can all help to keep them safe.

He said: “We often hear that victims of county lines criminality don’t know they are being exploited or don’t have the confidence to report it because they fear there may be consequences.

“Children and young people who are being exploited may not always appear vulnerable or act the way we may expect victims should. If something doesn’t feel right, it may not be.

“Those working in the service, retail or transport industry are in a position to spot signs of exploitation and abuse. Report it to us and collectively we can safeguard more young people.”

Signs and indicators a young person may be being exploited:

  • Travelling alone, particularly in school hours, late at night or frequently?
  • Looking lost or in unfamiliar surroundings?
  • Anxious, frightened, angry or displaying other behaviours that make you worried about them?
  • In possession of more than one phone?
  • Carrying lots of cash?
  • Potentially under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
  • Being instructed or controlled by another individual?
  • Accompanied by individuals who are older than them?
  • Seen begging in a public place?

If you suspect someone is at risk of child exploitation, you can report it to us here. You don’t have to tell us your name, just what you have seen.

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