Police are appealing for parents and carers of youngsters at risk of being drawn into crime to take action.
There are a number of ways in which young people can become vulnerable to exploitation throughout their formative years and officers from the Met’s East Area Command which encompasses Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge are raising awareness of the dangers.
Detective Superintendent Paul Trevers said: “Exploitation comes in many forms, with one of the most challenging being the recruitment of youngsters by organised gangs to supply drugs.
“All too often we are called to incidents of extreme violence where youngsters have been attacked by rival gangs, or we arrest youngsters who are moving and selling drugs for dealers who are higher up in the gang hierarchy.
“They mistakenly believe that being associated with an established, well known gang member will raise their own social status, but this is not the case. The potential personal cost of the risks they take far outweigh the benefits of what they believe will be ‘easy cash’. “
If you are concerned about a young person that you believe may be vulnerable to being groomed by a criminal gang, please get in touch with police.
If you are not comfortable speaking to officers you can remain 100% anonymous by contacting the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or visit Crimestoppers_uk.org where you will not be asked for your name and your IP address is not traced.
As well as engaging with children via dedicated schools officers, East Area Command also runs regular online courses for parents who have youngsters who they feel may be at risk of being recruited by criminals, the courses are free and those taking part are able to take an active part, or simply take in the information. The courses are advertised in advance on Twitter @MPSHavering, @MPSBarkDag and @MPSRedbridge.
In addition there is a wealth of information and advice online at:
Detective Superintendent Trevers added: “A criminal record seriously limits the potential of young people, but it is the risk to their safety and wellbeing that concerns us most. If you have information that could save a youngster from being drawn into a criminal lifestyle please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
“Through education and enforcement we are facing the challenge of exploitation head on, on a daily basis, but there is no one solution to this complex and dangerous issue, only by working together, with our partner agencies and our communities, can we hope to stop drug dealers who are trading the safety and futures of our youngsters for their own gain.”