Chicken Shop Gangs Lure Children Into Drug Dealing With Free Food

12 August 2019, 11:05

This author and former gang member explains how "chicken shop gangs" recruit children to drug dealing with the promise of free food.

An investigation has revealed a tactic dubbed "chicken shop grooming" as part of the Youth Select Committee’s investigation into the UK's knife crime epidemic.

Nequela Whittaker, youth worker, former gang member and author of Street Girl told Tom Swarbrick that school children have been groomed by older peers, often in Year 11 or Sixth Form in chicken shops in certain areas of South London for quite a while.

She said:"This is something that has been brought to my attention last year from quite a lot of young people that I was working with, quite a few parents had mentioned it to me as well."

She said gangs "victimise young people and groom them into a sense of false security" - and explained that means approaching young people who come from poorer backgrounds.

She said drug gangs will look out for children in a group who have "no money for the extra treats or sweets after school", they will approach them and offer to buy them food.

Chicken shop gangs offer to buy vulnerable children food
Chicken shop gangs offer to buy vulnerable children food. Picture: PA

Ms Whittaker explained: "This occurs after school hours....young people often lurk for chicken and chips as the school meals aren't enough or to their taste."

She said the children will often be approached by an older peer who they "already have a semi-relationship with as they see them in passing" and will be offered food.

She said by Friday, if the young person hasn't got the money to pay them back for the chicken and chips: "that's when they get lured into okay, you need to take this bag, you need to hold this, you need to commute across the town to drop this A and B to this person, and that's where it all begins for a young person."

Reports say that children potentially as young as 7 are getting caught up in this "chicken shop tax".

Nequela Whittaker said creating more opportunities for young people that are being groomed into this lifestyle would be one way to tackle the issue.

Watch the full exchange in the video at the top of this page.