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Child Exploitation

Information about child exploitation and prevention advice.

What is Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE)?

Child Criminal Exploitation occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, control, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into any criminal activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial or other advantage of the perpetrator or facilitator and/or (c) through violence or threat of violence. The victim may have been criminally exploited even if the activity appears consensual. Child Criminal Exploitation does not always involve physical contact, it can occur through the use of technology.


What is Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)?

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), is the sexual abuse of a young person aged under 18 involving exploitative situations and relationships. The sexual activity often takes place in exchange for money, alcohol, drugs, or presents such as clothing or mobile phones.

A common feature is that the child or young person does not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship and does not see themselves as a victim of exploitation. Victims can be targeted in person or online and are often targeted because they are already vulnerable in some other way.

What is County Lines?

Children are being groomed into County Lines which is the police term for urban gangs supplying drugs to suburban areas as well as market and coastal towns, using dedicated mobile phone lines. 

There are many reasons why young people feel the pressure to join gangs. They might be bored and looking for excitement or feel attracted to the status and power it can give them. They might join due to peer pressure, money or family problems. Gang membership can also make a child feel protected and that they belong.

Criminals are taking advantage new technology to exploit vulnerable young people into working for their gang without them realising they are a victim.

If you are worried that someone you know may be being groomed or exploited, tell someone that you trust and consider talking to us about it. If you feel you can tell us about it, we will take action to bring offenders to justice and offer you support.

You can call us on 101, but in an emergency always dial 999. Alternatively, you can call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

  • Unexplained gifts
  • Expensive belongings - clothes or mobile phones, for example - and habits such as alcohol and drugs which cost money the child is not likely to have access to
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Going missing, running away or homelessness
  • Being absent and truanting from school or showing signs of disengagement or considerable change in performance
  • Unexplained changes in behaviour, temperament or personality (e.g. chaotic, aggressive, sexual, mood swings)
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour/over familiar with strangers or sending sexualised images via the internet or mobile phones
  • Association with older people, anti-social groups and other vulnerable peers
  • Being involved in abusive relationships, feeling intimidated and fearful of certain people or situations
  • Self-harming, demonstrating suicidal thoughts and tendencies, overdosing on substances or eating disorders

These are just some of the signs and many victims will not see them as indicators of CSE, young people often trust their abuser and don't understand that they're being abused. They may depend on their abuser or be too scared to tell anyone what's happening.

You could have an important role in recognising that someone might be being sexually exploited and could help to protect that child or young person.

Online grooming is a type of CSE that impacts both boys and girls across Surrey. It can be initiated through social media, gaming, chatrooms or other online communication. Online grooming can take a number of forms including children being exploited for indecent images or videos by adults, peers sharing indecent images with each other, and the online grooming moving into a face-to-face situation

CSE can occur through the use of technology without the child's immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post images on the internet or using mobile phones.

Read more about internet safety tips and keeping children safe online.

We are tackling child sexual exploitation by:

  • Targeting paedophiles who sexually abuse and groom children and young people online
  • Tackling offenders who use the internet to obtain and distribute indecent images of children
  • Specialist police officers trained to investigate missing person reports and coordinate activity to locate them - in the case of CSE, those young people who regularly go missing or absent from home or care
  • Managing registered sexual offenders to prevent them from committing further crimes against children online
  • Ongoing awareness training for officers and police staff of the key signs and vulnerabilities of CSE
  • Delivering educational talks to hotel staff, local school teachers and children’s home managers on how to spot the signs a child may be a victim of CSE
  • Close partnership work with local councils, Local Safeguarding Children's Boards, housing providers, social services, youth services, the voluntary sector and many other organisations to manage known sex offenders and safeguard vulnerable young people
  • Long-term youth engagement to involve vulnerable young people in positive activities, such as sport or voluntary work, alongside police and partner agencies.

Operation Makesafe is an initiative focused on ensuring that people working in the business sector are aware of the early warning signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE). Local and national evidence shows that CSE can take place in hotels, pubs, cafés and places licenced to sell alcohol. Taxis can also be used to transport young people who are then exploited. We are working to make sure people employed in these environments are able to spot the warning signs and have the confidence to easily report their concerns.

CSE isn’t always easy to spot, but there are signs to look out for which could indicate that it is taking place. If you work in a local business and come across a situation that looks or feel suspicious, talk to your supervisor and contact the police quoting Operation Makesafe. Don’t ignore your gut feeling that something is not right. Say something if you see something.

Operation Makesafe Downloads


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