More than 30,000 children aged between 10 and 15 say they are in gangs as fears grow of spiralling drug crime.
According to the Times, Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner, warned that children were being trapped by experienced gang leaders using a ‘systematic and well-rehearsed business model’.
‘Just like with paedophiles and traffickers, they trap victims into a triple trap of debt, threat, and enticement. The children are seen as disposable in these drugs organisations,’ she said.
‘Parents have told me that police and teachers don’t believe what they are telling them about gangs – it’s still not seen as a countrywide threat.’
According to Ms Longfield, children in rural areas are just as likely to be targeted by criminals.
A study conducted by her office shows that children as young as ten are being recruited to take drugs from big cities to rural areas as drug dealers expand their influence.
In one case, a ten-year-old boy was recently found in a rural park trying to hang himself with his school tie because he feared for his life.
Ms Longfield also argued that a rise in school exclusions was partially to blame for the epidemic – calling on Theresa May to launch a ‘moral crusade’ against child exploitation.
In London alone, there has been an unprecedented surge in violent murders which have seen 77 people killed already this year.
Most recently on Saturday night a 15-year-old boy was stabbed in Romford, becoming the 77th person murdered in the capital this year and the 49th victim of a fatal stabbing.
Elsewhere in England and Wales there has been a 22 per cent increase in knife crime last year alone, while the number of children aged between ten and 15 being treated for stab wounds in England has also increased by 69 per cent since 2013.