Longer read: ‘Serious problem’ of gangs grooming children to burgle in Redbridge

Children are being used by gangs in crimes as they face less severe sentences when caught. Picture:

Children are being used by gangs in crimes as they face less severe sentences when caught. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Redbridge has a “serious problem” with criminal gangs grooming young people to commit burglaries.

Cllr Canal said child victims should be taken into care. Picture: Martin Keene

Cllr Canal said child victims should be taken into care. Picture: Martin Keene - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

MP for Ilford North, Wes Streeting, said he has met with Redbridge Council to talk about the issue and said the local authority is taking action.

“Many of the perpetrators of burglaries in our borough are young people under the age of 18,” he said

“We have a serious problem with criminals gangs grooming young people to commit crimes as they know they face less severe sentencing.

“Through my casework and working with other organisations I have seen that these young people don’t know the extent they are getting into serious organised crime and putting themselves at risk.”

Leader of the council, Councillor Jas Athwal said a joint approach between the council, parents and the police is needed.

“Whether they are being used as drugs mules or for other antisocial activity, children services are working hand in hand with the police,” he said.

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“We are trying to ensure that all the service remain open to them.

“Collectively we have to do a lot of things and taking steps to make sure children are safe.”

Cllr Athwal also said locking the children up isn’t always the answer.

“We need a culture change, everybody wants tougher custodial sentences, but we need to ask ourselves do people commit less crime when they come out or actually do they commit more crimes?

“As a society, we need to look into how we can engage with youngsters.

“A lot more interactive procedures need to take place.”

Most of the burglars arrested since January lived outside of Redbridge and the council will be “arming themsleves with the defence of ANPR cameras” to combat gangs driving into town.

Leader of the Conservatives, Councillor Paul Canal acknowledged there is a major issue around London based and eastern European criminal gangs using people for their own purposes.

“These people can be threatened with there families safety and told if they don’t burgle enough their family will be hurt or they will be made to sleep on the street.

“It is heartbreaking what is happening to some of these people.

“But I don’t believe in letting our residents being burgled perpetually.

“If people are caught for multiple offences they should be detained and put into secure centres, not prison.

“Similarly if an older burglary is caught who commits crimes to support a drug habit they should be forced to have treatment before being jailed.”

A National Crime Agency (NCA) report, published today, said the number of victims of modern slavery has gone up, largely due to an increase in minors being exploited by gangs.

In Redbridge six referrals were made for children in the borough and across Britain referrals have risen by a third from 3804 in 2016 to 5,143 in 2017.

NCA Director Will Kerr said: “We are also seeing increasing crossovers between slavery and organised immigration crime outside of the UK.

“Often the same criminal networks are involved in transportation, and migrants themselves are vulnerable to labour and sexual exploitation during their journeys and after.

“Particularly concerning to us is the rise in young people being exploited for sexual purposes or drug trafficking.

“Overall our knowledge and intelligence is improving, and modern slavery and human trafficking remains a high priority for law enforcement. But we cannot bring a halt to it alone, we need support and assistance from across the public and private sectors, NGOs and most of all the public themselves.”

A NSPCC spokesperson said: “These figures reflect what our Child Trafficking Advice Centre is seeing, with despicable traffickers seeking to exploit and profit from hundreds of innocent children.

“Trafficking is a form of child abuse and these desperately vulnerable children need our help, and perpetrators tracked down and brought to justice.

“Anyone concerned that a child may have been trafficked or is at risk of exploitation can contact the NSPCC’s Child Trafficking Advice Centre on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk”