Skip Links
Members Login

Adult Criminal Exploitation

Criminal Exploitation includes gang crime and county lines.  A gang may claim control over territory in a community, and engage either individually or collectively in violent behaviour or other types of criminal activity. 

County lines is when gangs and organised crime networks groom and exploit children or adults to sell drugs.  They may make them travel across counties, and they use dedicated mobile phone 'lines' to supply drugs.  People who are being criminally exploited often use public transport (train, buses and taxis) to get around. 

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

Vulnerable adults who are trafficked, exploited or coerced into committing crimes are criminally exploited. The victims will usually have been targeted due to a vulnerability such as an addiction or learning disability.

Perpetrators of criminal exploitation may also be victims of the same crime. Although perceptions are changing adults can been seen as willing participants and criminalised for having chosen to take part, this perception can make exploitation of adults can be difficult to spot. Adults can be groomed in the same way as children, so it is important to use professional curiosity to test that what you are being told is the whole picture. The victim's consent may be given under coercion or duress, misplaced loyalty to the perpetrator, fear of repercussions, fear of prosecution, or a genuine belief that the situation is not abusive.

In order to break the cycle it is important for practitioners to view the victim as in need of support and not criminalise them or 'choosing' to take part. Practitioners must consider what they can replace the negative relationships and experiences with, as for some victims this will be the key to accepting support

Possible signs of Criminal Exploitation include:

  • Adults who look frightened in the company of others
  • Associating with known gang members
  • Allows others to speak for them when addressed directly
  • Those under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Their physical appearance may show signs of injury, malnourishment and maybe unkempt
  • They might seem unfamiliar with the local area, or not have a local accent
  • They could be receiving excessive texts or phone calls
  • Are they deliberately avoiding authority figures such as police officers or railway staff?
  • Unexplained money, clothes or mobile phones etc.

Let us know what you think

RBSAB are keen to hear your views on this website so if you can think of ways to improve this service please let us know.

Feedback Form

Sign up for email updates

Keep up to date with Safeguarding Adult developments and the work of RBSAB by signing up for email alerts.

If you would like to unsubscribe from updates you can do so at any time by sending an email to [email protected]

Enter your email address
Safeguarding Children Click here to access the Safeguarding Children Partnership