January 24, 2008 / 3:47 PM / 12 years ago

British police crack child slave gang

LONDON (Reuters) - Almost two dozen Romanians were arrested on Thursday after police swooped on a child slave gang operating in Britain.

Six children aged under 10 were rescued in pre-dawn raids and taken into care after they had been forced to steal and beg on London streets and on public transport, Scotland Yard said in a statement.

Hundreds of police from forces in England and Romania were involved in the operation, codenamed Caddy, at several addresses in Slough, west London.

Authorities believe they have smashed a major operation, which trafficked young Eastern European children into Britain to steal, beg, pick pockets and target consumers at cash point machines on the streets of London.

Commander Steve Allen, who led the operation, said more arrests were expected.

“While many of these crimes committed appear to be low level, we have evidence that organized crime networks are exploiting and driving the most vulnerable members of their own community,” he said in a statement.

“With promises of a financial return, some poor families surrender their children who are subsequently forced to commit crime.”

Reporting by Andrew Hough; Editing by Stephen Addison

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