Unfortunately, it can be relatively easy for individuals to be groomed in criminal exploitation, especially if they are vulnerable or have a difficult home life. Criminal exploitation involves the manipulation and control of vulnerable individuals for the purpose of committing crimes, such as drug trafficking, theft, or prostitution.
Grooming is a process that involves building trust and emotional connections with the victim in order to gain control over them. The grooming process often starts with the perpetrator identifying a vulnerable individual, such as a child or someone with a history of abuse or neglect. The perpetrator then seeks to establish a relationship with the individual, often by providing them with gifts, attention, or a sense of belonging.
Over time, the perpetrator may use their influence and control to manipulate the victim into participating in criminal activities. This can involve coercion, threats, or even physical violence.
It’s important to note that anyone can be targeted for grooming, regardless of age, gender, or background. However, there are certain factors that can make individuals more vulnerable to grooming, such as a lack of social support, low self-esteem, or a history of trauma.
If you or someone you know is being groomed for criminal exploitation, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Please check the bottom our page for resources to seek help!
Vaping has gotten much more popular among teenagers in the past few years. Now, many more teenagers use e-cigarettes, like the brand JUUL, than traditional cigarettes. There are restrictions on the sale and advertising of e-cigarettes to young people, but many teenagers still use them.
When teens vape, what they’re doing is inhaling steam that comes from hot nicotine liquid. E-cigarettes, vape pens and JUULs are all different devices for heating the liquid. Research shows that vaping has many medical risks.
E-cigarettes contain a lot of nicotine, which is very addictive. Getting addicted to nicotine can make it harder for teenagers to focus and concentrate. E-cigarettes also contain chemicals that could cause cancer, and there are many reports of serious lung problems connected to vaping. Additionally, vaping can make teenagers more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes.
Unlike regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes don’t have a strong smell, so it’s much easier for kids to use them in secret. The kid-friendly packaging and flavors of JUUL and other popular vape brands make vaping look fun, so even kids who wouldn’t try cigarettes may be tempted. Teens often think that vaping isn’t dangerous, and it’s easy for underage kids to buy vaping devices online.
If you’re worried your child might be vaping, start with a general conversation. Try asking if other kids at their school vape, and what they think about it. By finding out what they already know, you can start helping them understand the risks. This usually works better than just telling them that vaping is wrong. If your child is addicted to vaping, make sure to get care from an addiction specialist. Addiction to nicotine from vaping can be even more serious than addiction to regular cigarettes.More
JUUL, a popular vape device that comes in fun flavors, looks like a flash drive and can be charged in a USB port, is especially concerning. JUUL delivers high levels of nicotine, making the product extremely addictive. The company that makes and markets JUUL recently exceeded a $10 billion valuation faster than any company, including Facebook. JUUL sales now make up more than half of the e-cigarette market.
The FDA announced that it will be cracking down not only on illegal sales of e-cigarettes to minors, but also the “kid-friendly marketing and appeal of these products” because “we see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion.” And after recent unexplained illnesses and deaths that have been attributed to vaping, the CDC and the American Medical Association are expressing serious concern, recommending that people should avoid vaping entirely.
Teachers, health professionals and parents are alarmed by the growing popularity of vaping among young people and trying to educate not only teens but also themselves, as it’s all still so new.
What is vaping?
Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by the heated nicotine liquid (often called “juice”) of an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette or e-cig), vape pen, or personal vaporizer. It’s also commonly called JUULing (pronounced jewel-ing).
What originated as a smoking cessation aid has quickly became a popular — and addictive — product in its own right. Sarper Taskiran, MD, a child and adolescentpsychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute, attributes the recent rise in popularity to packaging and advertising. “The teens are after innovation and they’re attracted by sleek design and ease of use,” he says. “They look like an Apple product.”
Although vaping companies emphatically deny that they are marketing to young people, critics note such features in their advertising as youthful images and colors, animation, actors who appear to be under 21, and suggestions that vaping makes you happier and improves your social status.
Although some of the health risks associated with vaping appear to be less severe than traditional combustible cigarettes (there’s no tar, for example), there are still risks.
Some known risks of vaping are:
E-cigarettes contain high levels of nicotine. According to the company’s website, the nicotine content of one JUULpod is equivalent to one pack of cigarettes.
Because of these high nicotine levels, vaping is extremely addictive — and teens are already more susceptible to addiction than adults because their brains are still developing, which makes them more likely to habituate to using drugs and alcohol.
Addiction can impact the ability to focus. Dr. Taskiran has observed this with the adolescents he works with, who report that vaping initially increases their alertness and attention, but then experience a decrease in attention span. One student, for example, was able to sit through practice ACT exams but after JUULing for six months “can’t sit still because she starts craving, can’t think of questions, and just starts fidgeting.”
E-cigarettes and similar devices contain carcinogenic compounds, and a recent study found significantly increased levels of carcinogens in the urine of teens who vape.
One study found that vaping does, in fact, cause lung irritation akin to that seen in smokers and people with lung disease and causes damage to vital immune system cells.
There have been several deaths and hundreds of cases of lung illness attributed to vaping. Right now it is unclear if the cause is bootleg cartridges containing THC or CBD oil or legal nicotine cartridges. The CDC and the American Medical Association are recommending that people avoid vaping entirely while this is being investigated.
Taskiran notes that vaping increases heart rate and blood pressure, so can increase circulatory problems. One teen he works with started vaping and found that his swim times dropped because he can no longer sustain the heart rate required for swimming.
Since they leave little odor, e-cigarettes are particularly easy to hide and even use discreetly in public places, including school. Kids are also vaping marijuana at increasing rates, which brings its own health risks.
Why parents should be concerned
One problem with vaping is that teens hear that it’s not as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes and many think there is no harm. “They really think that they are mostly flavors and that they are inhaling a pleasant gas,” says Dr. Taskiran.
One study of 12th graders found that kids who vaped (but were not previously smokers) were more than four times as likely to “move away from the perception of cigarettes as posing a great risk of harm.” The study and others like it have showed that teens who vape are much more likely to start smoking cigarettes.
The packaging does little to convey the risks. “They are very enticing the way they look. It’s not transparent at all. It says 5% nicotine, which sounds like nothing, so teens think 95% is water weight or vapor,” laments Dr. Taskiran.
Plus, he points out, smoking never stopped being cool. It’s still positively portrayed in movies, and JUUL in particular has re-branded it to make vaping an even cooler alternative. But vaping isn’t only for the cool kids — many teens are curious (with flavors like mango, cucumber and crème, who wouldn’t be?) and presented with the opportunity will give it a try.
Sarah, a mom of two in Ann Arbor, MI, was shocked to get a phone call the other day from her son’s middle school principal, requiring her to come get him immediately for “emergency removal and suspension.” He and two friends had been caught vaping on school grounds after school, and a passing parent took photos and sent them to the administration.
Though they didn’t find any devices on her son — a straight A student with no prior offenses — the school, like many others, is taking a hard stance. “The principal knows that vaping is common and shared that the businesses in downtown Ann Arbor are selling to teens without asking for IDs,” relayed Sarah. “However, she feels the need to let my son and his friends know that it’s a really, really big deal.”
At this school, students caught vaping have to sign behavior contracts, must attend a Teens Using Drugs Class, and cannot participate in any sports, clubs or special events for the rest of the year. If the kids had been across the street, not on school grounds, it would have been a different scenario. But the principal said that had they been in high school rather than middle school, she would have called the police.
Sarah remembers what it was like to be a teenager so doesn’t think trying it is that big of a deal, but is concerned about addiction. “Addiction runs in my family and I worry about my son. Of course, I worry about the damage that the chemicals can do to his lungs and body as well,” she says.
Although some places are tightening restrictions locally, kids can still go to a website, click a button that says they are at least 21 years old, and purchase online. “The majority of adolescents I see are purchasing JUUL from the Internet,” says Dr. Taskiran.
How to talk to kids about vaping
Dr. Taskiran advises parents to start by educating themselves, so they know what they’re talking about going in, and to take an inquisitive and curious approach to what their teen’s experience is. “The most important thing is keeping it as a dialogue,” he says. “Declarative statements like ‘It’s bad for you’ just end the conversation.”
Dr. Taskiran recommends starting the conversation more generally by asking if a lot of kids at school vape. Once the conversation is initiated, you can slowly work up to asking things like, “What is your experience with that? What are the flavors like?” He also suggests getting a sense of what they know (or think they know) about the product, which gives you an opening to start educating them.
The silver lining of Sarah’s experience with her son is that he actually told his dad about the experience even before he knew he’d been caught. “They had a full one hour conversation about it after I was already asleep. He told my husband that he tried it for the first time and that it burned his throat and he didn’t like it.” She got the call from the principal the next morning before her son had a chance to tell her himself. “He’s a great kid and doesn’t really get in trouble except for talking in class because he’s bored. My goal has always been open communication and to keep him talking to us. He did!”
Of course, while parents need to educate themselves, the onus isn’t entirely on them. “Schools need to own this as well and provide educational strategies for both teachers and students,” says Dr. Taskiran. Prevention is a lot easier than treatment later on, he says, and notes that peer education can play a particularly important role.
If you are concerned that your child has become addicted there are plenty of treatment options. Dr. Taskiran recommends consulting with a clinician who is well-versed in addiction treatments. “This is a true nicotine addiction,” he says. “People usually think this is different from cigarette use — but it can be more severe than cigarette use.”
NOS is a colourless gas sold in canisters, usually inhaled using a balloon.
Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas or “NOS,” is a colorless and odorless gas that has been used for various purposes for over a century. It is commonly used as an anesthetic and analgesic in medical and dental procedures, as well as a propellant in whipped cream dispensers and fuel for race cars. However, despite its widespread use, nitrous oxide can be dangerous when used improperly or abused. Here are some of the dangers associated with nitrous oxide:
Oxygen deprivation: Nitrous oxide can cause oxygen deprivation, which can lead to loss of consciousness, brain damage, and even death. This is because nitrous oxide can displace oxygen in the lungs and prevent oxygen from reaching the brain and other vital organs.
Addiction: Nitrous oxide can be addictive, and prolonged use can lead to physical and psychological dependence. This can result in a range of negative consequences, including impaired judgment, memory loss, and even mental illness.
Hypoxia: Nitrous oxide can also cause hypoxia, a condition in which the body does not receive enough oxygen. This can cause symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath, and can be especially dangerous for people with underlying medical conditions.
Accidents: Nitrous oxide can impair judgment and coordination, which can increase the risk of accidents and injuries. This is particularly true when it is used while driving or operating heavy machinery.
Reproductive health: Nitrous oxide has been shown to have negative effects on reproductive health, particularly in women. Prolonged exposure to nitrous oxide can interfere with ovulation, cause menstrual irregularities, and increase the risk of miscarriage.
Nitrous oxide can be addictive, and prolonged use can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Addiction to nitrous oxide can result in negative consequences such as impaired judgment, memory loss, and mental illness. Addiction can also lead to an increased risk of accidents and injuries, as well as financial problems and strained relationships. People who are addicted to nitrous oxide may experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, and insomnia when they try to stop using the gas. Therefore, it is important to seek professional help if you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to nitrous oxide.
If you are reading this now, you could already be worried that your child or someone you know is being groomed or involved in criminal activities.
With the increase in the movement of drugs and the money to be made instantly, more and more young people are being drawn into the lure of making vast amounts of money.
Communication around this increasing trend is becoming more and more complicated leaving many parents confused at spotting the signs early.
Once a young person has been recruited into the process, it can be a very challenging time. There are many signs of grooming that often go unseen and this is where the real work begins.
Organised circles of drug dealers do not care about the outcomes for your child! they are simply used to fill the rising demand for drugs and weapons. Once they are used they are often discarded and left to deal with the consequences alone.
There are countless cases of young people ending up in debt because of their involvement with these groups. The prisons are filling up with young people that believed that they were part of a friendship or even an intimate relationship.
Parents are also being drawn into the cycle as the impact of debt becomes apparent to them. There is little more than advice that the police can offer you in regards to dealing with these situations, however they can be a listening ear and will often have information about the groomer or dealer etc. There is no easy remedy, it will be hard work getting them out. It will also have an impact on the wider family, as groomers are often looked at as people that offer trust and a listening ear. They are also good at alienating the intended from all support systems. Initially being the parents or carers.
But have faith! with the right mentoring and coaching, many young people and parents find a way out!
What is a gang?
The word ‘gang’ means different things in different contexts, the government in their paper ‘Safeguarding children and young people who may be affected by gang activity’ distinguishes between peer groups, street gangs and organised criminal gangs.1
Peer group A relatively small and transient social grouping which may or may not describe themselves as a gang depending on the context.
Street gang “Groups of young people who see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group for whom crime and violence is integral to the group’s identity.”
Organised criminal gangs “A group of individuals for whom involvement in crime is for personal gain (financial or otherwise). For most crime is their ‘occupation.”
It’s not illegal for a young person to be in a gang – there are different types of ‘gang’ and not every ‘gang’ is criminal or dangerous. However, gang membership can be linked to illegal activity, particularly organised criminal gangs involved in trafficking, drug dealing and violent crime.
Key things to look out for ...
Being aware is the most powerful weapon you can have!
Awareness is the key to breaking the cycle or pattern of grooming. Learning to spot the signs early can save you a lot of heart ache and pain. Much of the grooming process happens because there is a lack of communication and sensory acuity. We must notice the changes and act on them without wasting any time. Below is some tips on what you should be looking out for.
Changes in routines
Look out for significant changes in routine, this can be the time it takes to arrive home from school or the frequency of leaving and returning home for short periods of time. This often spells out that there is something happening in the background. Often young people will develop a pattern of staying out for many hours without an excuse or evidence of where they have been, they will often lie when challenged about their activities outside of the home. If your child is being used during the day when they are normally at school, provision or college, there will be a lot of evidence of this. Many young people are targeted here and find it difficult to avoid seeing a potential groomer. Children that are targeted and groomed in these situations are often referred to as new skins, as they are fresh and will have little knowledge of the intent. They will most certainly not of had any complications with the police before.
Friends and associates
Always have an interest in your child’s friends or associates, this is a powerful way of understanding the dynamics of the relationship. Many parents pay little attention and will often just assume that they are a natural group of friends that attend the same school, provision or college. This can be so far from the truth, as young people that are in the grooming process are introduced to new people frequently. The aim here is to keep the young person away from advice or rapport. Young people that are initiated into county lines or the child sex trade are put to work with people they don’t even know!
In grooming gangs, it is not uncommon for a young person to be put in charge of finding others. Gangs will often recruit specific members that are in schools or colleges to befriend individuals for the groomers. they will establish rapport with them and encourage them to join their gangs or meet with groomers direct. In fact there is an increasing demand for schools and colleges to educate young people about the dangers of such friendships. Pupil referral units are also being targeted by gang members and groomers. They will specifically target young people that are in these provisions as they are already known for challenging behaviour or special needs. Groomers are also good at obtaining private details or possessions such house keys, mobile phones or Oyster cards that can be used to form threats and control over an individual. Parents and staff should work together to try and identify the early signs of grooming within these organisations.
Phones and other means of communication
None of the grooming process works without communication. Communication is the key driving force behinds this type of manipulation and should never be ignored. The excessive use of mobile devices to drive the increase in grooming has be one of the key factors in the simplicity in grooming. be aware of your child’s phone activities. Be particularly aware of the second line, or the road phone, which will often be a cheap handset that could easily be disguised as a spare phone. You may often be told that it was found or that a friend upgraded and gave it to them for free. These second phones or ‘Burners’ are the crucial link to the cycle. Without this method of communication, there is little contact and certainly no way in.
There are a lot of parents and carers that allow unlimited usage of mobile phones and will often give their children unlimited data packages etc.
Social media and its many wonders has fuelled the communication process, with many young people being targeted online
Money and material items
The easiest way to know if your child or young person is buying or receiving items is to do random searches! It blows me away the amount of parents that have no knowledge of what they have in their own houses. Some parents only become aware when there is an arrest or search carried out. Money also plays in major part in understanding where your child is at. It’s simple, if you didn’t give them that money, then who the hell did! QUICK MATHS!!!!
Don’t walk around with your head in the sand wondering where the excess money is coming from, Act on it and ask the question, sooner than later. If you’re child comes home and has a new item of clothing or money, challenge them and get an answer fast! Do not be afraid to confront this and most certainly do not accept any contribution of gift that can be part of an illegal a
County lines is a term used to describe a type of criminal activity where drug dealers from urban areas exploit vulnerable people, including children and young people, to sell drugs in smaller towns and rural areas. The term “county lines” refers to the phone lines that the dealers use to communicate with their customers.
Criminal exploitation, also known as child criminal exploitation or CCE, is a form of child abuse where children and young people are exploited by criminals to commit crimes. This can include drug dealing, theft, or other types of criminal activity.
The exploitation often involves grooming, intimidation, and coercion. Children and young people who are at risk of being exploited may have a range of vulnerabilities, such as being in care, having mental health issues, or being homeless.
The exploitation of children and young people for criminal purposes is a serious problem, and it is important for communities, law enforcement agencies, and social services to work together to protect vulnerable individuals and prevent these types of crimes from taking place.
County Lines is where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries (although not exclusively), 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 (areas where the drugs are taken to) are reporting increased levels of violence and weapons related crimes as a result of this trend.
Children as young as 12 years old have been exploited into carrying drugs for gangs. This can involve children being trafficked away from their home area, staying in accommodation and selling and manufacturing drugs.
The Meaning Of the word Cuckooing
Criminal gangs are targeting the homes of vulnerable people to be used for drug dealing – a process known as “cuckooing” (after the bird that invades other bird’s nests) and victims are often left with little choice but to cooperate.
Dealers often approach the vulnerable person offering free drugs to use their home for dealing or in some instances after providing ‘free’ drugs, will then force the person to deal for them in order to ‘re-pay’ their drug debts.These criminals are selective about who they target, a lot of the time victims are lonely, isolated, frequently drug users themselves and are already known to the police.
“Cuckooing” means the criminals can operate from a property rather than the street, which is out of sight from the police making it an attractive option. They can then use the premises to deal drugs from, which is difficult for the police to monitor and they often will only stay for a short period of time.
What to do if you suspect a property is being ‘cuckooed’? Call Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency to report drug-related information.
How do you know if County Lines drug dealing is happening in your area?
An increase in visitors and cars to a house or flat
New faces appearing at the house or flat
New and regularly changing residents (e.g different accents compared to local accent)
Change in resident's mood and/or demeanour (e.g. secretive/ withdrawn/ aggressive/ emotional)
Substance misuse and/or drug paraphernalia
Changes in the way young people you might know dress
Unexplained, sometimes unaffordable new things (e.g clothes, jewellery, cars etc)
Residents or young people you know going missing, maybe for long periods of time
Young people seen in different cars/taxis driven by unknown adults
Young people seeming unfamiliar with your community or where they are
Truancy, exclusion, disengagement from school
An increase in anti-social behaviour in the community
Exploitation of young and vulnerable people
A common feature in county lines drug supply is the exploitation of young and vulnerable people. The dealers will frequently target children and adults - often with mental health or addiction problems - to act as drug runners or move cash so they can stay under the radar of law enforcement.
In some cases the dealers will take over a local property, normally belonging to a vulnerable person, and use it to operate their criminal activity from. This is known as cuckooing.
People exploited in this way 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 as part of the network's drug dealing business.
As we have seen in child sexual exploitation, children often don't see themselves as victims or realise they have been groomed to get involved in criminality. So it's important that we all play our part to understand county lines and speak out if we have concerns.
The police can stop and question you at any time – they can search you depending on the situation.
A police community support officer (PCSO) must be in uniform when they stop and question you. A police officer doesn’t always have to be in uniform but if they’re not wearing uniform they must show you their warrant card.
Stop and search powers help the police to tackle crime. It’s targeted and intelligence-led and practised on people who are suspected of being involved in crime. Find out how it helps to keep our streets safe and what to expect if you are stopped.
Stop and question: police powers
A police officer might stop you and ask:
what your name is
what you’re doing in the area
where you’re going
You don’t have to stop or answer any questions. If you don’t and there’s no other reason to suspect you, then this alone can’t be used as a reason to search or arrest you.
Stop and search: police powers
If you get caught up in knife crime, you're not just going
to get a slap on the wrists. It doesn't
matter if it's for your own protection
or if you are carrying a knife for
someone else. Just carrying a knife can
get you sent to prison for up to four
years, even if you don't use it.
Your rights when being questioned
The police may question you about the crime you’re suspected of - this will be recorded. You don’t have to answer the questions but there could be consequences if you don’t. The police must explain this to you by reading you the police caution:
“You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
Before you’re searched the police officer must tell you:
their name and police station
what they expect to find, for example drugs
the reason they want to search you, for example if it looks like you’re hiding something
why they are legally allowed to search you
that you can have a record of the search and if this isn’t possible at the time, how you can get a copy
Removing clothing: police powers
A police officer can ask you to take off your coat, jacket or gloves.
The police might ask you to take off other clothes and anything you’re wearing for religious reasons - for example a veil or turban. If they do, they must take you somewhere out of public view.
If the officer wants to remove more than a jacket and gloves they must be the same sex as you.
Your rights in custody
The custody officer at the police station must explain your rights. You have the right to:
get free legal advice
tell someone where you are
have medical help if you’re feeling ill
see the rules the police must follow (‘Codes of Practice’)
see a written notice telling you about your rights, eg regular breaks for food and to use the toilet (you can ask for a notice in your language) or an interpreter to explain the notice
You’ll be searched and your possessions will be kept by the police custody officer while you’re in the cell.
Young people under 18 and vulnerable adults
The police must try to contact your parent, guardian or carer if you’re under 18 or a vulnerable adult.
They must also find an ‘appropriate adult’ to come to the station to help you and be present during questioning and searching. An appropriate adult can be:
your parent, guardian or carer
a social worker
another family member or friend aged 18 or over
a volunteer aged 18 or over
The National Appropriate Adult Network provides appropriate adult services in England and Wales.
If you are under 18 and have been detained in police custody in the UK, it is important to know your rights and seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Under UK law, anyone who is arrested or detained by the police must be informed of their rights. If you are under 18, the police must inform your parents or guardian that you have been arrested or detained as soon as is practicable.
You have the right to free legal advice if you are detained by the police, and this includes if you are under 18. You can ask for a solicitor to be present during any police interviews, and you have the right to remain silent if you choose to do so.
If you are under 18, the police are required to make arrangements for your welfare while you are in custody. This includes providing appropriate accommodation, food and drink, and medical treatment if necessary. They must also make sure that you are not held in police custody for longer than is necessary.
If you feel that your rights have been violated or that you have been treated unfairly while in police custody, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. You can contact a solicitor or a legal advice service, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or a youth advocacy organisation, for assistance.
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