Posted: 29 January 2019

How county lines grooming is growing

This week, we have the opportunity to be Morgan Stanley’s new partner. Staff members are voting and if we’re successful, we’ll be making sure we put child exploitation out of business across London.  

The issue has also been  across news outlets this week as the true extent of  the spread of violence, criminal activity and child exploitation has been revealed.

Children in care or growing up in poverty are often targeted by criminal gangs and exploited to traffic and sell drugs across the country. We have been working with children who are criminally exploited for years and have heard their distressing tales of grooming, physical violence and sexual abuse.

The number of children groomed into county lines is increasing

Yesterday, The National Crime Agency’s director of investigations and county lines lead, Nikki Holland, shone a spotlight on the true reach of this crisis. She disclosed to the Home Affairs Select Committee that the number of phone lines associated to drug deals has almost tripled in the past year to around 2,000 lines.

Members of our Disrupting Exploitation team were also present at the Home Affairs Select Committee to give evidence from our practice, and once again 'county lines' headlines dominated the news:

Drug and knife crime is on the rise across London

Criminals are setting up more drug lines as they traffic drugs into more places across the country, and also to counteract detection from the Police and other authorities. You can use our map to see the scope of drug and weapon crime reported across London in 2018:

Violence and threats

The NCA published a report on Tuesday, in which it said that boys and girls aged between 15-17 made up the bulk of the vulnerable young people that are groomed into criminal exploitation. However, through our work we have seen children as young as nine who are exploited through this grooming model.

These children experience violence, are threatened, along with their families, if they speak out against their exploitation. Young people are offered knives to protect themselves, and many of the children we work with have been stabbed. The results of which we see on the front pages of the newspapers on a weekly basis.

How we can stop exploitation

We work to end exploitation, by connecting agencies, working with police and ensuring that children are reported missing if they’re missing from home or care.

Some of our project workers go on police operations with the Met and they witness the awful situations that adults and children experience while being exploited into criminal gangs; ‘I honestly feel saddened by the realities of exploitation and drugs,’ says Sarah, a London project worker.

She continues: ‘We understand exploitation very well, we go into these situations and we let a child know that we’re not the police and we’re not social services and the child or parent then engages with us much more quickly.’

Iryna Pona, Policy Manager at The Children’s Society says, ‘professionals must get better at spotting the signs that children are being exploited and ensuring they get early help, including an assessment to see if they are being groomed every time they are reported missing from home or care.

‘Too many children exploited through county lines are still not being referred to the National Referral Mechanism – the system used to identify victims of modern slavery and human trafficking. Without that recognition, more vulnerable children will continue to be failed.’

How you can help end exploitation

You can support our work so that we can intervene when children are being exploited and give therapy to young people who have experienced trauma through their experience with gangs.

If you’re a Morgan Stanley employee, then this week you can vote for us and together we will put exploitation out of business. 

By Amy Dennis
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