PCC Blog – International Day of Disabled Persons
December 3rd, 2021
AS A former police officer I have sadly seen first-hand how criminals groom and exploit disabled adults for their own gain.
It is especially common practice for organised gangs operating on County Lines to target vulnerable adults, such as those living with a disability.
County Lines is where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries (although not exclusively), usually by children or vulnerable adults who are groomed or coerced into it by gangs.
In some cases the dealers will take over a local property, normally belonging to a vulnerable or disabled person, and use it to operate their criminal activity from. This is known as cuckooing.
People exploited in this way will quite often be exposed to physical, mental and sexual abuse.
What makes this tactic all the more insidious is that often those that have been groomed do not see themselves as victims or realise that they are being coerced into criminal activity. They often believe that those exploiting them are their friends.
We all should be able to spot the signs that a vulnerable adult we know might be being exploited in this way:
- The person becomes withdrawn, or they may seem troubled by something but unwilling to talk about it. Alternatively, their emotions might become more volatile.
- You notice them using or wearing something new, that you didn’t buy for them.
- Groomers often aim to isolate their targets from their family or friends. If they seem reluctant to see you, or they refuse a visit, it might be because someone’s manipulating them.
- The person might be spending more time on the phone, or online, than usual. But they won’t say what sites they’re visiting, or who they’re talking to.
- They start talking about a new “friend”, “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”, and it’s not clear who they are or how they met them.
Remember, victims of grooming often don’t feel like they need help. Grooming often has the appearance of authentic friendships and relationships.
If you suspect someone close to you is being groomed you can report your concerns to Cambridgeshire Constabulary online: Report information about crime (cambs.police.uk)
Tackling serious and organised crime is included in my new Police and Crime Plan due that was published this week. I will continue to work with regional and national partners to fight organised crime and prevent further exploitation of vulnerable adults.