Criminal Exploitation


Criminal exploitation refers to organised crime gangs or groups who operate usually in urban areas supplying drugs to other areas, often crossing county borders.  The gangs use dedicated mobile phone lines, sometimes known as ‘deal lines’ and use adults and children to move drugs and money around.

Organised crime gangs create a base in their chosen target area, sometimes by taking over the homes of local adults who gang members have identified as being vulnerable.  They do this either by force or coercion, known as ‘cuckooing’.

Types of Crime

Criminal exploitation includes the following activities:

  • drug use and supply;
  • violence;
  • gang activity;
  • safeguarding offences;
  • criminal and sexual exploitation;
  • modern slavery/trafficking;
  • missing persons.

Usually there is an imbalance of power between the abuser/person committing the crime, and the victim/abused.  This could relate to age, gender, physical strength, cognitive ability, status and access to resources.

Vulnerability Factors

Factors that may make an individual more at risk of criminal exploitation include:

  • previous experience of abuse, either as a child or adult (neglect, physical, or sexual abuse);
  • care experienced as a child;
  • homelessness;
  • social isolation;
  • worklessness and lack of regular income;
  • connections with existing gang members;
  • physical or learning disabilities;
  • mental health or substance misuse issues.

Indicators of Criminal Exploitation

The following could be indicators that someone is at risk of or is being criminally exploited.

  • Going missing from home or work and being found out of area;
  • Unexplained money or new possessions;
  • Second phone and increase phone activity;
  • Unexplained injuries;
  • Carrying of weapons;
  • Self-harming or significant changes in psychological wellbeing.

Any sudden changes in an adult’s lifestyle or behaviour could be indicators.