How can MATs identify students at risk of involvement in County Lines and gang violence?

County lines and threats of gang violence have become a growing concern for schools. The online environment has been identified as a key area for young people to be groomed, exploited and threatened. Students can quickly find themselves stuck in a situation from which they cannot remove themselves. Fear of serious consequences can lead them to suffer in silence and become more vulnerable to criminal leaders.

County Lines

County Lines is a form of criminal exploitation. It involves recruiting vulnerable children to transport illegal drugs up and down the country for anonymous drug dealers.

Criminals will look for vulnerability within students. They look for things to exploit such as; pupils feeling isolated, those looking for romantic relationships, students living in foster homes, students with special needs etc. Students can be enticed by promises of luxury items or a sense of belonging and then once involved becoming trapped.

The National Crime Agency cites social media as a key way of recruiting students and also enhances enticement; “use of social media, on which images and videos of cash, designer clothing, luxury cars and other high value goods are posted, creating a misconception that involvement in crime is rewarding.”

Gang violence

Gang violence is also a rising concern with stabbings frequently reported in the media. The Children’s Commissioner recently released a key report on gang violence. It lists clear risk factors and behaviours that make children more vulnerable to being exploited by gangs. These include issues such as bullying, special educational needs, mental health issues and students suffering from self-harm. The report suggests that “risks can be moderated or exacerbated by whether and how services respond when the child’s needs first emerge.”

Social media may be used to recruit new gang members but Childnet warn how it is also used to incite violence and monetize YouTube videos, “images posted by gangs may include verbal threats, but also visual threats…to depict threats of violence…The more shocking the content, the more times it is watched and shared and the more likely it is the content can be monetised – e.g. converting number of views on a YouTube video into a payment.”

For detecting issues in both County Lines and gang violence, early identification of those at risk is crucial.

How can digital monitoring help?

Identifying and dealing with issues that may make students more vulnerable to County Lines and gang violence could help avoid recruitment. Early recognition of those students becoming involved with gangs and criminality facilitates an early intervention strategy.

Effective digital monitoring can help your MAT to detect students at risk by looking for digital signals that take place on your network and devices. This might show indicators such as a student searching for websites about self-harm, or a student being bullied online by a group of students. It could also detect communication between gang members and your students.

Once a digital signal has been detected, an academy DSL will see a discrete alert that risk activity has taken place in real-time. This will enable a DSL to put measures in place to support and help a student.

Some digital monitoring solutions are designed with MATs in mind and can allow a multi-level secure access point so that Trust leaders can see an overview of risk concerns and trends across their whole MAT.

To find out how to implement an effective digital monitoring strategy across your MAT and integrate it into an effective digital safety system, download our whitepaper How to achieve Digital Safety excellence across a Multi-Academy Trust’.

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