Children drawn into crime due to school closures
Figures from the National Referral Mechanism, which show the number of children dragged into modern slavery by county drug gangs, also show a 61% increase in the 12 months since the start of the pandemic. , compared to the previous year.
Gangs increased their recruiting activity during the lockdown by targeting youth “hanging out” on local streets, according to research by the Local Government Association.
Paul Griffiths, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association, said keeping children in the classroom was key to detecting the first signs that children were being dragged into crime.
He said: “Besides the closure of schools and youth services, support networks outside the family that provide opportunities for prevention and diversion do not exist.
“As a result, this so-called ‘sliding door’ moment for so many young people has been lost. No one is necessarily to blame, but I really feel for this generation that hasn’t had this vital support in the past 16 months.
“The power of early intervention cannot be overstated and the classroom is a key part of it. These are pivotal times and by the time someone is sent to a juvenile institute or prison it is often too late.
“The lockdown has also made it very difficult for parents to protect their children. Young people feel isolated. Parents do their best, but find it difficult to make time because of their own work commitments.
The isolation caused by the confinement, combined with the financial pressures faced by many families, has also made children easier to target and exploit.
County gang danger
County gangs that use teenagers to distribute drugs in towns and villages across the country have been wanted to exploit the lockdown, but have had to adapt their tactics.
Scotland Yard’s Assistant Deputy Commissioner Graham McNulty said fewer commuters meant it was harder for gangs to use public transport, so they just started using cars.
He said: “The organizations have highlighted their fears about the vulnerabilities that could be created by the lockdown and the lack of contact between children and teachers, social workers and healthcare professionals that could lead to exploitation going unnoticed. . “
But he said the lockdown also gave police an opportunity to be more proactive in tackling violence and gangs, as many other types of crime have plummeted.
Identify signs of exploitation
Despite this, experts stressed the importance of keeping children in class to prevent them from being drawn into crime.
Lucy Dacey, Head of the Children’s Society’s National Disruptive Exploitation Program, said: “With successive closures, opportunities to detect signs of child exploitation have become more limited.
“Teachers, youth workers and community leaders have had less contact with young people, which makes it more difficult to detect at an early stage that something is wrong.
“At the same time, many young people struggle with loneliness and spend more time talking to their peers online, while families may have faced particular challenges due to wage cuts and job cuts.
“It created an almost perfect storm for criminals seeking to exploit them, who adapted their methods to target such vulnerabilities and cynically prepare children with offers of friendship, money, food, drugs and alcohol and status. “
Pedophiles Targeting Children Online
The lockdown also allowed predatory pedophiles to target young people who have been forced to spend more and more time online.
Recent figures from the National Crime Agency (NCA) revealed that up to 850,000 people in the UK are now a sexual threat to children.
Police have warned that school closings and school closures have fueled the surge in online sexual abuse, with young people spending more time on the internet.
In its annual strategic assessment, the NCA said, “It is highly likely that some people who started or increased their online offense or networking during the lockdown will continue these behaviors after the Covid-19 restrictions end.
Likewise, some children who increased their online footprint during the lockdown are very likely to remain active online, thus increasing the number of potential victims. “