A new strategy is needed to identify and support county lines victims, according to The Children's Society.
The charity warned that many vulnerable children exploited by criminals are not getting the support they need.
It is calling for the Government to define child criminal exploitation in law and adopt a new national strategy to tackle the issue.
James Simmonds-Read, national programme manager at The Children’s Society’s Prevention programme, said: 'Too often, these young people do not get the support they need, or are seen as having chosen to get involved in crime when they were manipulated and coerced.
'It is vital these children are protected from abuse rather than prosecuted and professionals must also get better at identifying children who may be at risk of exploitation sooner and offering timely help.'
The Children's Society has launched its Look Closer campaign to encourage staff in the service sector to help spot the signs a child may be being exploited.