What is Child Criminal Exploitation?

Child criminal exploitation (CCE) is when children or young people are manipulated or coerced into committing crimes on behalf of criminal gangs or individuals. Historically these children have been criminalised and seen to be making a  choice, however we are starting to see a welcome shift in perception as seeing these young people as victims of their circumstances and of those who exploit them.

The exploitation of children is a Hampshire Constabulary force priority and work with partners happens every day to keep young people in Portsmouth safer.

The Missing and Exploited Team seeks to safeguard young people believed to be at risk of exploitation, target perpetrators and manage missing people.

Drug dealing and child criminal exploitation – ‘County Lines’

‘County lines’ is a term used to talk about gangs of drug dealers who operate a mobile phone remotely, sending texts to known addicts in the target city. These are usually gangs from cities such as London, Liverpool and Manchester. These gangs force people – including children as young as 14 – to become street dealers and runners in target cities.


Catch22’s research, Running the Risks, July 2015, found that the market in illegal drugs is a key activity for gang-involved children and young people. Children and young people are being recruited to travel to areas away from home to sell drugs. In the worst cases, this can be a form of child trafficking as young people find themselves in unsafe environments, completely isolated and with no way of contacting anyone for support.

In March 2016 the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) published their report on Runaway and Missing Children and Adults. The APPG found: ‘Patterns of grooming of children for criminal exploitation are very similar to those of child sexual exploitation.

Always contact the police if a crime is in progress.

For more advice on the signs of exploitation, visit: https://www.safe4me.co.uk/

You can also contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Children’s Services at Portsmouth City Council also have a dedicated phone number to report concerns relating to the welfare of young people in the city, 02392 688793.