The use of vapes by criminals to attract, groom and exploit children across Wales is the focus of a new awareness campaign by Crimestoppers Wales.
The charity has launched the campaign to encourage people to give information anonymously about vaping-related exploitation. The aim is to protect vulnerable people and to tackle the criminal networks involved.
The campaign has highlighted a case study where a 14-year-old girl was the victim of vape-related sexual grooming by an owner of a convenience store in Wales.
The retailer supplied the girl with free vapes and occasionally alcohol in exchange for sexual favours for himself and his friends. The child was also eventually offered drugs and money. This same shop allegedly sold or gave children as young as eleven vapes on a regular basis, and young people were also accessing the flat above the store where transactions were completed after closing hours.
Crimestoppers said criminals are taking advantage by targeting children – whether it’s using vapes, food, money, drugs, alcohol or gifts – in exchange for distributing or selling vaping products illegally or for sexual favours.
Typically, a child or young person does not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship and does not see themselves as a victim of exploitation, it noted.
“As the regional manager of Crimestoppers Wales, I am deeply concerned about the alarming issue of exploitation linked to vaping in our communities. Our campaign is a call to action – your information about those involved may protect young people from harm and prevent more victims in the future,” Hayley Fry, regional manager, Crimestoppers Wales, said.
“If you know something and prefer to stay totally anonymous, please complete a safe and secure anonymous online form on our website or speak to our national Contact Centre by calling 0800 555 111 anytime. Young people can also give information via Fearless.org 100% anonymously without fear of any repercussions. Our charity has always kept its promise of anonymity to everyone who contacts us.”
Fearless gives young people an option of staying anonymous when speaking up about crime. Information can be given via Fearless.org, by calling 0800 555 111 at any time or via Crimestoppers website.