Doncaster police have issued a direct warning to parents, carers and anyone else responsible for a young person to be aware of the potential risks posed by organised crime.
Yesterday Detective Inspector Steve Smith, in charge of Doncaster’s Op Fortify team to disrupt and tackle organised crime, spoke out about the increasing number of adult members in organised criminal groups (OCGs) targeting young people.
He particularly focused on one group operating in the Mexborough area, who they believe have been responsible for incidents of associated crime in and around the community, including violence and disorder.
He said: “Nationally, gangs are using coercion, threats of violence or physical harm to force youngsters to carry out illegal activities on their behalf.
“You may have heard this referred to as county lines, or child criminal exploitation.”
Organised criminal groups use children or vulnerable adults to carry out illegal activities on their behalf. This specific model of drug dealing is called ‘County Lines’.
Child criminal exploitation (CCE) happens when an individual or OCG takes advantage of an imbalance of power, e.g. an adult taking advantage of a child in return for something the child needs or wants.
It is often carried out under the threat of violence, and is frequently done for the financial advantage of the perpetrator.
Det. Insp Steve Smith said: “CCE often happens through the use of technology, it doesn’t always have to involve physical contact.
“We therefore urge parents and those with responsibility for young people to have these important conversations, to identify if they have children at risk of being targeted by gangs.”
Some warning signs to look out for in children include: staying out late / overnight with no to little explanation, being in possession of money or expensive items with no plausible excuse, developing behavioural issues such as becoming unsociable, withdrawn or possibly aggressive.
Det. Insp Steve Smith added: “We are aware that growing numbers of young people are the ones involved in the so-called street dealing in Doncaster.
“They are engaging in drug-related crime at incredibly high risk, at the bidding of older members of criminal groups.
“These young people may feel like they’re in control, but in reality they’re not. Adults who know the risks involved continue to put young lives in jeopardy to further their criminal enterprises, and we must break this cycle.”
If you are concerned about a young person that is in your care, agencies such as the NSPCC can provide help.
Either visit their website www.nspcc.org.uk/what-is-child-abuse/types-of-abuse/gangs-criminal-exploitation/ or contact 0808 800 5000.