THURROCK Council identified 16 children at threat from modern slavery since February it has emerged reports the Local Democracy Reporter.
A freedom of information request to the council requested information on the number of children at risk of criminal exploitation.
The request also asked how many such children had been involved in so called county lines drug gangs and how many were in the care of the local authority.
In response the council said 13 boys under 18 aged between 14 and 17 had been identified as being at risk of exploitation along with three girls.
Six of the children were white British, six of African heritage and the remained a mix of other ethnicities.
The council reported fewer than five children were involved in county lines gangs. Five of the youngsters were children in the care of Thurrock Council and six had been identified as “in need”.
Thurrock Council has taken a proactive approach to the criminal exploitation of children in Partnership with Essex Police.
George Coxshall, councillor responsible for health, adults’ health, community and public protection said recent training in children services has suggested “that if there is a risk – no matter if it is not evidenced, it should be referred as a matter of prevention”.
Cllr Coxshall said As such referral numbers are not an indicative of exploitation taking place, but this is a sign of good practice by staff.”
Last year, Operation Henderson saw Thurrock Council work with Essex County Council, Southend Council, Essex Police, community safety teams and British Transport Police working together at transport hubs across the borough, including Chafford Hundred and Grays stations. Youth workers boarded trains, talking to young people, trying to understand why people are travelling in and out of London.
Campaign group Anti Slavery says modern slavery is often “hidden in plain sight”It adds “People can become enslaved making clothes, serving food, picking crops, working in factories, or working in houses as cooks, cleaners or nannies. Victims of modern slavery might face violence or threats, be forced into inescapable debt, or have their passport taken away and face being threatened with deportation.”
The council has previously urged residents to be vigilant about exploitation in their communities and to report any concerns.