Recruitment to criminal gangs

Criminal networks often recruit children and young people to perform criminal acts. Read about how the recruitment of children and young people takes place and what warning signs you should look out for as a parent and adult.

Why gangs recruit young people

Criminal networks recruit and exploit young people for a variety of reasons. Children and young people are not checked as much by the police, and children under the age of 15 cannot be punished in the same way as adults. Young people may also be easier to influence and exploit.

How does recruitment work?

Criminals can entice children and young people with clothes, money, food and attention, in return for their performing various tasks. The tasks may initially seem innocent, but can quickly become much more serious.

Examples of tasks:

  • Keep a lookout and warn the criminals if the police are on the way
  • Take receipt of and handle criminals’ money
  • Forward illegal money, for example via Swish
  • Move weapons and drugs
  • Hide weapons and drugs
  • Carry criminals’ weapons for them
  • Sell drugs

Warning signs for parents and other adults

Be aware of whether the child:

  • Changes their attitude, hides things or starts lying
  • Starts socialising with older adolescents or adults
  • Swishes money or has more money of their own than before
  • Comes home with expensive things and clothes, gets another mobile
  • Has new values

It is also common for children who are recruited to feel under pressure and become worried and anxious. Some start to skip school, feel sick or experience physical pain.

Get support and help

If you are worried that your child is mixing in criminal circles, it is important that you get support and help. Talk to other adults around you. All municipalities and regions also offer support to families, although it can be a little different around the country. Start by contacting your local authority.

Contact the police if you suspect that children are being recruited

It is a criminal offence to involve children and young people in criminal activities. If you suspect that a child is being exploited for criminal acts, it is important to report it to the police.

If you suspect that your child or another child is being drawn into a criminal environment, you can alert the Police via their tip-off form or call 114 14. You can always remain anonymous.

Read more about the recruitment of young people to criminal gangs on the Swedish Police website

Government agencies to improve collaboration to prevent recruitment

The Government has tasked the Swedish Police, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare and the Swedish National Board of Institutional Care with producing proposals for how government agencies and other actors can collaborate in work with children and young people who are in or close to criminal gangs. The assignment also includes identifying how many children and young people in different age categories are active in criminal gangs.