THE authorities are making the same mistakes as the grooming scandal and letting vulnerable kids get sucked into criminal gangs, a damning report today warns.
Criminals are “grooming” kids to carry drugs and using “chilling levels of violence” to keep them in line, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said.
A staggering 27,000 kids are in gangs in England, but just a tiny number – 6,560 – are known to the authorities.
Another 33,000 children have a brother or sister in one, while 313,000 know someone in a gang, the Keeping Kids Safe report found.
Criminals follow manuals which reveal in chilling detail how they bribe, bully and threaten kids into doing their dirty work.
Ms Longfield said: “The criminal gangs operating in England are complex and ruthless organisations, using sophisticated techniques to groom children, and chilling levels of violence to keep them compliant. At the moment it is too easy for them to succeed.”
She added: “However, I am worried that all the mistakes that led to serious safeguarding failings in relation to child sexual exploitation in towns and cities up and down the country are now being repeated. The government and local areas need to face up to the scale of this challenge.”
Criminal gangs operating in England are complex and ruthless organisations, using sophisticated techniques to groom children.
Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner
The report found that “ruthless” gangsters are luring vulnerable kids in by giving them gifts and acting as their friends and protectors.
But then they send them out with money and arrange for them to be mugged so they become “in debt” to the gang. These kids are then sent all over the country to peddle drugs and ferry cash.
Ms Longfield said many of the warnings signs of a gangs crisis are there – school exclusions have soared and so have hospital admissions for children with knife wounds.
But she warned local safeuarding children boards have woefully failed to tackle the crisis.
Many areas have no idea how many kids are in gangs, and violent deaths of children are too often not investigated, she said.
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The Commissioner will today hold an emergency summit with senior police officers and local safeguarding boards to discuss the crisis.
A Government spokesman said: “We are committed to protecting vulnerable children by cracking down on the ruthless gangs that seek to exploit them and by offering them the support and skills they need to lead lives free of violence.”
He said they have put £220m into supporting children and young people at risk of becoming involved in violence and gangs.
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