Gangs/Criminal Exploitation

What is it?

Criminal exploitation is where children receive something such as gifts, money or protection before being forced into criminal activities such as drug dealing. Criminal exploitation is usually carried out within gangs and in some cases young people are forced to carry and deal drugs around the country in what is known as county lines.

All children and young people are at risk of Gangs/criminal exploitation (not just boys) however those with low self esteem, substance use, susceptible to peer pressure, from low income families and those who disobey authority are more vulnerable.

Young people are groomed by adults or other young people. The offender will try to build an emotional connection from the young person to them and will develop a fake relationship with them. Young people will be recruited into feeling they are not being used, and introduced to a lifestyle they feel is normal. Once they are being exploited young people feel they can not easily change their situation due to the control they are under and lack of power they have.

There are a lot of reasons why young people get involved in gangs. Sometimes they get “pulled” into a gang because they think they might earn a lot of money and gain status, or they may think it is a good way to show family, neighbourhood, or cultural pride. Other times they get “pushed” into a gang because they are afraid for their safety and think a gang will provide protection from neighbourhood crime and violence, or they have been pressured by the gang to join.

Even though some young people believe that gang involvement might provide safety, protection, excitement, and opportunities to earn money, the truth is that gang involvement is very dangerous and limits opportunities for the future. Research has shown that youth who are gang-involved are more likely to commit crimes, which increases their chances of being arrested and incarcerated, and to be victims of violence themselves. Young girls are especially vulnerable to sexual victimization. Youth who get caught up in gangs are also less likely to graduate high school, less likely to find stable jobs, and more likely to have alcohol and drug problems and even health problems later in life.

  • Frequently missing from home and school
  • Coming with a history of gang life
  • Low self confidence /esteem
  • Difficulties in the family home
  • Living in area of deprivation
  • In a residential care home
  • Lack of positive activities
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Family deprivation
  • Peer rejection
  • Drug use
  • Talk to your child about the negative consequences of gang behaviors and ways to avoid them
  • Be clear that you disapprove of gangs and do not want to see your child hurt or arrested. Be firm in your expectations that your child should NOT:
  • Associate with any gang-involved individuals.
  • Hang out where gang members congregate.
  • Attend any party or social event sponsored by gangs.
  • Use any kind of hand or finger signs that may be meaningful to
  • gangs, especially in pictures (even as a joke).
  • Wear clothing that may have meaning to gangs in your area.
  • Get to know your child’s friends and the friends’ parents
  • Be aware of their attitudes toward drugs, alcohol, and gangs.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Internet, popular slang terms, and your child’s online activity
  • Talk to your child about ways to deal with pressure from friends
  • Limit interaction with gang-involved individuals
  • Set firm limits with your child
  • Plan family time
  • Provide an open environment where worries/concerns of your child can be discussed openly.

Children's Society Information