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 CRIMINAL EXPLOITATION  PRACTICE PAGES   

The content of these pages concerns professional knowledge and practice in realtion tosystemic investigation, protection and prosecustion strateies for responding to forced criminality of children and vulnerable adults by peers, individual criminals, organised crime groups and networks 
 
 

Current State of Knowledge in the Field 

The issue of forced criminal exploitation in the research literature has been neglected. Despite the recent growth in interest and recognition of the problem (particularly in relation to the County Lines model of criminal exploitation and drug dealing), the current state of academic and professional knowledge is also uneven but an overview of such research reveals some consistencies. 
 
Transnational Trafficking for Criminal Exploitation 
Vietnam is the country from which the greatest number of children and adults are trafficked for forced labour and cannabis cultivation. RACE in Europe identifies Vietnam, Poland and Somalia as among the top 10 countries for trafficking children for cannabis cultivation (Brotherton & Waters). People that have been trafficked for the purposes of street crime and begging most commonly come from Central and Eastern Europe, particularly Roma children from Romania and Hungary. 
Possible Reasons: 
Rapid social, political and economic changes on a global scale. The impact of modern mercantile capitalism and globalisation has had a negative effect upon many poor families and communities, particularly in rural regions (Shelley, 2010; Cunningham, 2015). 
 
Understanding why people may be targeted, trafficked and exploited can be significantly enhanced by examining the situation in the country or region from which theyoriginate. This provides context to the exploitative relationship and can offer insights into the predisposing vulnerabilities that contributed to the target's viability as a target for trafficking and exploitation. 
 
Data and case studies concerning British-born victims that have been exploited through criminal activity is, perhaps surprisingly, more difficult to locate but the National Crime Agency has recently been collating useful data on county lines. 
 
Vietnam: 
Vietnamese children and young people, predominantly boys, are frequently found to be working as “gardeners” in cannabis factories. These children have been found and removed from cannabis factories during nationwide police raids[. The children were often charged with drug offences, immigration offences and labelled as running drug houses (Beddoe, 2007). There are also links to human trafficking and debt bondage as a method of coercion and control, by organised groups bringing children into the UK from Vietnam. 
 
Many victims that are trafficked from Vietnam are taken to China and then flown to Russia. From there they are transported (usually by lorry) to Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, France and finally the UK. These are long, complicated journeys; violence and exploitation often begin from the point of departure and recurs throughout the trafficking process. 
 
Emotional and physical abuse as well as debt bondage is common: families living in extreme poverty are vulnerable to money lenders who are often connected to traffickers. Culture and tradition dictate that children have a responsibility to support their families financially through work and this responsibility is often reinforced by the expectations of parents. This is more pronounced in poorer rural areas creating an environment favourable for recruiting trafficking victims (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in Association With the British Embassy, Hanoi, 2011). 
 
In Vietnam, many people living in economically disadvantaged provinces often lack formal education. While it is compulsory to attend education until the age of 14, 40%-50% of rural children do not continue in education after they reach 14 (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in Association With the British Embassy, Hanoi, 2011). 
According to RACE, traffickers tend to recruit exclusively from rural areas of Vietnam and recruit children and adults through offers of a better life abroad. Increasingly, victims of trafficking are targeted and recruited via internet chat rooms (Brotherton & Waters) rendering the exploiters plausible and persuasive in their offers of work and prosperity. 
 
Central and Eastern Europe: 
Trafficking for petty crime and begging is particularly well established in Central and Eastern Europe and most commonly affects the Roma communities in countries such as Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria. These communities suffer particularly high levels of poverty and unemployment, and have a long history of marginalisation and discrimination. 
 
There are high levels of multi-generational street homelessness among Roma people meaning that they often have no identification, rendering them invisible to state records (European Roma Rights Centre and People In Need, 2011). People living in extreme poverty do not have bank accounts and this is true for the Roma who have little option but to seek loans from money lenders known as Kamatari. These lenders impose harsh and repressive terms to recover the debt, including forcing people to commit crimes such as begging and pick pocketing or forcing parents to traffic their own children for the same purpose, or to hand the child over to traffickers (Brotherton & Waters). Family complicity in trafficking of children for all forms of exploitation has been noted by European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and People in Need (2011), whereby the child was usually recruited for exploitation by a close family member, or friends and associates with close family ties; furthermore, the report found that involvement of the sale of children by parents had also occurred. 
 
In other circumstances, families may send their children overseas for a better life and may not be aware that they are being exploited or forced to commit crime. Some children are accompanied by parents or family members who may force them to beg or steal. In some instances, where family members (e.g. parents) make a child beg or to steal, the child may understand this to be “for the good of the family” making them feel valued or useful (Ballet, et al., 2002). 
 
A number of factors may drive people into the hands of traffickers. Domestic violence and substance abuse are common. Gender-based violence, as a form of sex discrimination and violence against children, has been found to be a significant contributing factor to women being trafficked. Elsewhere, domestic violence and chaotic households have also been associated with child abuse and neglect which can push children towards sexual and criminal exploitation (Knowsley Council, 2015; European Roma Rights Centre and People In Need, 2011). Substance abuse has been found in all age groups within the Roma community even as young as six years old, especially among homeless street children. Drugs have also been identified as being used by traffickers to recruit addicted parents so that some young people or children are passed or sold to traffickers in order to maintain a habit or service a debt (European Roma Rights Centre and People In Need, 2011). 
 
In Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, Roma have - for generations - faced great obstacles to accessing employment due to low levels of education and high levels of discrimination. The lack of employment opportunities and the resulting poverty and social exclusion have been listed in all five countries as the most prevalent vulnerability factors. Lack of education is consistently cited as a problem for Roma and Traveller children both in the UK and in Europe with high dropout rates and disproportionate placement in provisions for children with special educational needs (European Roma Rights Centre and People In Need, 2011; Bingham, 2010). 

Recruitment of Children by Criminals 

The recruitment processes of drugs gangs are unclear (National Crime Agency, 2016) and this may be better understood by examining how children become involved in gangs in general rather than specifically to drugs gangs, especially as organised crime groups tend in any case to recruit urban street gangs, groups or individual street gang members. Some police force areas have highlighted that children appear to be groomed by gangs, either with gifts or promises that they will earn money, as illustrated in the Islington analysis. Like the recruitment of children for sexual exploitation, recruiters for criminal exploitation target children from poor backgrounds who are already engaged in offending behaviour, children experiencing problems at home or those who are in local authority care. One police force area identified a gang that targeted young males from homeless hostels. These children are often listed as missing persons or have school attendance problems. Social media is also used by recruiters to make initial contact (National Crime Agency, 2016). 
Discussion of Video 
Whilst Paco hints at violent punishment, including potentially the killing of a young person who has “messed up”, Chris’s account shows that the violence perpetrated against young people in the context of drug dealing is not only from the controllers but from other exploited people e.g. the people in the cuckooed addresses who are both vulnerable and exploited and violent offenders. 
 
Paco’s attitudes to the children and young people are cynical and indicative of his pattern of offending and abuse of children. This interview illustrates how children are recruited to drugs gangs. Both the accounts of Paco and Chris raise once more the uncomfortable point that some of the children and young people have made a decision to “work” for the exploiters. Whilst Paco is cynically exploiting the aspirations and needs of the children, Chris makes the astute observation that some young people take the decision to work for the exploiters to assuage other problems they face in their living circumstances: these choices and decisions that are made by the young people are therefore rational given the conditions under which they are made. 
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