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The National Crime Agency defines organised crime as:

“serious crime planned, coordinated and conducted by people working together on a continuing basis. Their motivation is often, but not always, financial gain.”

The Coalition Government published a Serious and organised crime strategy in October 2013.

The strategy noted the link between youth street gangs and organised crime groups. It states that:

“Preventing young people from becoming involved in street gangs will reduce the risk that they become involved in organised crime.”

In March 2018 the Government published a National Security Capability Review in which it committed to publish a new ‘Serious and organised crime strategy’ in 2018. 

This Debate Pack looks at three types of organised crime which have a particular impact on children and young people: ‘county lines’, modern slavery and child exploitation.

‘County lines’

‘County lines’ is the term used to describe the situation where a group supplies drugs from an urban hub to a county location (typically a market or coastal town) within a different police force boundary.  Young and vulnerable people are often exploited by the group to carry and sell the drugs, or for their homes to be used as a base for drug dealing activity.

Tackling ‘county lines’ is one of the four main themes of the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy (April 2018). This strategy built on policies outlined in previous documents: Ending gang violence and exploitation (January 2016) and the 2017 Drug Strategy (July 2017).

Modern slavery

Many of the victims of human trafficking and modern slavery are children and young people. In 2017, 44% of the potential victims of human trafficking or modern slavery referred to the National Crime Agency, through the National Referral Mechanism, were children.

The Government set up a Modern Slavery Taskforce in September 2016 to help co-ordinate policy and operational responses in this area. On 17 October 2017, the taskforce announced three new measures:

  • The National Referral Mechanism will be reformed to try and improve decision-making and support, including a new digital system;
  • A new unit in the Home Office will handle all potential modern slavery cases: and
  • an independent panel of experts will review all negative decisions.

Child Exploitation

Organised criminals are involved in producing and distributing sexually exploitative images of children and grooming children for abuse.

The Coalition Government published a policy paper Dealing with child sexual exploitation in March 2015. In February 2017 the Government published Tackling child sexual exploitation: progress report which “gives an update on action the government is taking to deal with child sexual exploitation.”


Documents to download

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