Police Warn of Criminals Exploiting Children Through Vape Shops and Snapchat in Greater Manchester

Criminals lure children into vape shops, exploit them through blackmail and coercion. Police warn parents about Snapchat location-sharing risks and urge vigilance against this growing threat.

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Wojciech Zylm
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Police Warn of Criminals Exploiting Children Through Vape Shops and Snapchat in Greater Manchester

Police Warn of Criminals Exploiting Children Through Vape Shops and Snapchat in Greater Manchester

Police in Greater Manchester, UK, have issued a sobering warning about criminals luring children into vape shops with free products, tracking them on Snapchat, and then exploiting them sexually and criminally through blackmail and coercion. The criminals are using vape shops as a facade to manipulate and groom vulnerable children, often taking advantage of their naivety.

According to police, the criminals may initially give children free vaping products to gain their trust. However, they later demand payment or force the children to engage in criminal activities under threat. The perpetrators are also using Snapchat's location-sharing feature to track the movements and whereabouts of their young victims.

Why this matters: This alarming trend highlights the evolving tactics criminals are using to target vulnerable children, emphasizing the urgent need for increased vigilance and proactive measures to protect youth both online and in the community. The exploitation of popular social media platforms and seemingly innocuous vape shops as grooming tools is a serious concern that demands attention from parents, educators, and law enforcement alike.

As part of Operation Avro, Greater Manchester Police conducted a day of action to combat this growing problem. The operation resulted in 33 arrests for various offenses, including sexual offenses, possession of indecent images, and drug-related crimes. Police also seized thousands of pounds worth of illegal vaping devices, sweets, and imitation guns during the crackdown.

Greater Manchester Police, the third largest police force in England and Wales, has been grappling with its own challenges in recent years. The force was placed into special measures in December 2020 after a damning inquiry found that one in five crimes were not being recorded. However, under the leadership of Chief Constable Stephen Watson, who took on the role in 2021, GMP came out of special measures in October 2022.

Police are emphasizing the importance of parents educating their children about the risks associated with location-sharing on Snapchat and the various grooming tactics used by criminals. "It is important that parents are aware of the risks and talk to their children about the dangers of sharing their location on Snapchat," a GMP spokesperson stated. "Criminals are using sophisticated grooming models to exploit vulnerable children, and we urge everyone to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity."

Key Takeaways

  • Criminals lure children into vape shops, exploit them through blackmail and coercion.
  • Criminals use Snapchat's location-sharing to track and target vulnerable children.
  • Operation Avro led to 33 arrests for sexual offenses, drug crimes, and illegal vaping.
  • Greater Manchester Police was placed in special measures, but has since improved.
  • Parents urged to educate children on location-sharing risks and report suspicious activity.