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Criminal exploitation

Criminal exploitation is the use of power imbalances for coercion, control, manipulation or deception of adults, young people and children to take part in criminal activity for the purpose of criminal gains. Criminal exploitation includes modern slavery, human trafficking, child criminal exploitation and child sexual exploitation. Preventing these crimes, safeguarding victims and disrupting perpetrators is a priority for our partnership.

As well as identifying and safeguarding those at risk of exploitation, a key focus for Norfolk County Community Safety Partnership agencies is raising awareness of exploitation, so that all Norfolk residents can play their part in identifying exploitation and reporting concerns.

If you need help or think someone is at risk of criminal or sexual exploitation in Norfolk:

  • Call 0344 800 8020 and speak to someone at Norfolk Children’s Advice and Duty Service
  • Call 0344 800 8020 and speak to someone at Norfolk Adult Social Services
  • Ring 101 to speak to Norfolk Police. In an emergency always dial 999.

Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE)

CCE is where an individual or group uses their position of power to take advantage of a child or young person under the age of 18 and coerces, controls, manipulates or deceives them into criminal activity.

This could be:

  • In exchange for something the victim needs or wants such as money, clothes, mobile phones
  • For the financial gain or other advantage of the perpetrator or facilitator
  • Through violence or the threat of violence

CCE involves children with many vulnerabilities being exposed to, and/or being a victim of: physical and emotional violence, neglect, going missing, sexual abuse, sexual grooming and exploitation, modern day slavery, human trafficking and domestic abuse.

Even if the activity appears to be consensual, the victim may have been criminally exploited. CCE does not always involve physical contact, it can also happen through use of technology.  This could include making contact through social media and posting videos on YouTube which glamorise gang violence, drug taking and knife crime, as well as using and making music videos to make threats to other young people.

 There is a growing concern about CCE in Norfolk and specifically the links to County Lines drug trafficking.

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

CSE is a major child protection concern for communities across the UK. Hidden from view and going unnoticed, vulnerable young girls and boys are groomed and then abused, leaving them traumatised and scarred for life.

Child sexual exploitation is illegal activity by people who have power over young people and use it to sexually abuse them. This can involve a broad range of exploitative activity, from seemingly "consensual" relationships and informal exchanges of sex for attention, accommodation, gifts or cigarettes, through to very serious organised crime.

The sexual exploitation of children and young people (CSE) under the age of 18 is defined as: "situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or people) receive 'something' (eg food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities."

Child sexual exploitation can take place through the use of technology without the child or young person realising they have been exploited; for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet without immediate payment or gain.  In all cases, those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common.

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

The ‘County Line’ is the mobile phone line used to take the orders of drugs. Importing areas (where the drugs are taken to) report increased levels of violence and weapons-related crimes as a result of county lines drug activity.

Children, young people and adults exploited by County Lines gangs will quite often be exposed to physical, mental and sexual abuse, and in some instances will be trafficked to areas a long way from home. They often don't see themselves as victims or realise they have been groomed into criminality. 

Greater Norwich is also one of five areas in England piloting the Home Office and Public Health England’s new Project ADDER (Addiction, Disruption, Diversion, Enforcement, Recovery), which will run to March 2025. The funding, provided to Public Health Norfolk and Norfolk Police, is working with local services to combat drug misuse in the Greater Norwich area.

Cuckooing is a practice where people take over a person’s home and use the property to facilitate exploitation. It takes the name from cuckoos who take over the nests of other birds.

There are different types of cuckooing:

  • Using the property to deal, store or take drugs
  • Using the property to sex work
  • Taking over the property as a place for them to live
  • Taking over the property to financially abuse the tenant

The most common form of cuckooing is where drug dealers take over a person’s home and use it to store or distribute drugs.

People who choose to exploit will often target the most vulnerable in society. They establish a relationship with the vulnerable person to access their home.

Once they gain control over the victim - whether through drug dependency, debt or as part of their relationship – larger groups will sometimes move in.

Threats are often used to control the victim.

It is common for the drug dealers to have access to several cuckooed addresses at once, and to move quickly between them to evade detection.

The victims of cuckooing are often people who misuse substances such as drugs or alcohol, but there are cases of victims with learning difficulties, mental health issues, physical disabilities or socially isolated.

Spotting the signs of cuckooing

Signs that cuckooing may be going on at a property include but are not limited to:

  • An increase in people entering and leaving
  • An increase in cars or bikes outside  
  • An increase in anti-social behaviour  
  • Increasing litter outside 
  • People coming and going at strange times
  • Damage to the door/the door propped open
  • Unknown people pressing buzzers to gain access to the building
  • You haven't seen the person who lives there recently or, when you have, they have been anxious or distracted.

Modern day slavery and human trafficking are crimes in which people are exploited for other people’s personal gain.

Modern slavery is a term used in the UK and elsewhere to describe forms of exploitation occurring in the present day, as opposed to historical forms of slavery. In the UK, human trafficking is considered a form of modern slavery.

Modern Slavery

Modern Slavery captures a whole range of types of exploitation where children, young people and adults are treated as commodities and exploited for criminal gain. These include but are not limited to:

  • sexual exploitation
  • domestic servitude
  • hospitality such as restaurants, in particular fast food outlets
  • forced labour such as factories, farm work, hand car washes, nail bars and construction
  • criminal exploitation such as pick-pocketing, begging, burglaries and the illegal drug industry.
  • other forms of exploitation include: organ removal; forced begging; forced benefit fraud; forced marriage and illegal adoption.

The Norfolk Anti-Slavery Network is funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk under the Hidden Victims’ Fund, which aims to help prevent ‘hidden’ crimes which are traditionally under-reported and, crucially, to support those who are victims of such crimes.

Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking is the movement of individuals with the aim of forced labour or exploitation: 

  • This exploitation is an abuse of basic human rights, often affecting the most vulnerable men, women, and children in society.
  • Victims of human trafficking are often moved against their will and forced to work for little or no payment.
  • People are trafficked from a variety of countries, but vulnerable UK nationals are also at risk of exploitation.
  • Many of the victims are held in modern slavery, being threatened and abused, while often being made to live in poor, squalid conditions.
  • They may also be physically assaulted, sexually exploited and physiologically traumatised.

Spotting the signs of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking

It’s important that people are aware of how to spot the signs of someone who is being exploited. Victims may: 

  • appear to be under the control of someone else and reluctant to interact with others
  • appear frightened, withdrawn, or show signs of physical or psychological abuse
  • have someone with them at all times or they’re not allowed to speak for themselves
  • not have passport and ID documents, or they are held by someone else
  • be reluctant to talk to strangers or to the authorities
  • live in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation
  • live and work at the same address
  • fear deportation or violence to themselves/their family

If you have concerns that someone is being exploited, or suspect modern slavery/human trafficking, call 08000 121 700 (National 24 hour Helpline) or report onlineDo not confront the person who you believe is responsible, or let the victim know of your suspicions, as you may risk putting them and yourself in more danger.