Study to expose how traffickers groom children online

Police and crime experts at Liverpool John Moores University are working to reduce the risk of young people falling victim to trafficking online.

Traffickers are known to be using social media increasingly to choose and groom children and young people.

“It helps them identify their victims while minimising the risk of detection,” explained Dr Laura Pajón, a lecturer in LJMU’s School of Justice Studies.

Dr Pajón is undertaking a 12-month study to identify the exact nature of how vulnerability develops online and create recommendations for policy and practice for law enforcement authorities.

The project is one of five being funded by the ESRC Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre to addressing urgent social problems and is supported via the Early Career Researcher Development Fund which builds research capability to tackle emerging challenges.

Dr Pajón said online grooming was creating a problem for young people but also for the police and other agencies.

“The impact of the internet in trafficking offences is notable in the identification and recruitment of victims, their exploitation and the exertion of control over them, even after they have exited exploitation. Yet the evidence on how this come about is largely absent from current research despite the fact that children and young people are spending more time online.

“It is certainly the case that the evolving online landscape and the use of social media pose challenges for professionals working in response to these issues.”

Professor Charlie Lloyd, from the University of York and Co-Director of the ESRC Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre, said: “We are delighted to fund these research projects that cover such important areas of work. Our Centre aims to understand how vulnerability develops in different areas and how organisations can work together to tackle problems stemming from vulnerability such as exploitation by county lines drug networks, online child sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, modern slavery, mental illness and homelessness.”

The project also involves Dr Ben Brewster (Nottingham), Dr Imogen Fell and Dr Zoi Krokida (Stirling).


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