Do you know the signs of child sexual exploitation? That’s the question being asked by organisations across Bedfordshire as they launch ‘the more you know, the more you see’ campaign.
Bedfordshire Police, the University of Bedfordshire, Bedford Borough Council, Luton Borough Council, Central Bedfordshire Council, Crimestoppers, and the three local safeguarding children boards are joining forces to tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the new campaign that launches today (Monday).
The campaign aims to educate people on the signs that someone is being exploited, and increase the number of cases that are reported.
Detective Superintendent Sharn Basra said: “Tackling child sexual exploitation is one of our priorities at Bedfordshire Police and we have a dedicated team investigating this area of child abuse on a daily basis. Our priority is to identify those who are at risk of becoming victims in order to prevent the exploitation before it even starts.
“But we also need help from the public. The more you know about CSE, the more you’ll be able to spot it, and report it.”
Over the next few weeks, police officers will be visiting locations such as pharmacies, youth centres, and taxi ranks to talk to people about the signs of CSE, distributing leaflets and posters across the county in order to signpost people on where to go for help if they think CSE is taking place.
Det. Supt. Basra continued: “Partnership working is key to fighting this important issue so I’m pleased that Bedfordshire is uniting in this campaign, to help put an end to the suffering of young people, both girls and boys who are being exploited. It’s also important to us to have Crimestoppers on board, as they offer a completely independent and anonymous service for people to be able to report information about CSE.”
Regional Manager for Crimestoppers Julia Hughes added: “The Crimestoppers charity provides a unique, anonymous service that allows those who may be too close to the young victims or perpetrators to report what they know, without any fear of being identified.
“The independent charity Crimestoppers is delighted to support this campaign and we would encourage anyone with information to contact the charity anonymously.”
As part of the campaign, a new website has been launched which contains links and information about all of the agencies taking part, and explains how you can access help and support, as well as where to report CSE concerns.
The organisations will also be using social media to target young people directly, to help them recognise the signs that their friends, or indeed themselves, may be being exploited.
In September, the organisations will be working with schools in order to educate children and young people, culminating in a children’s conference at the end of September, as part of an awareness raising week.
Independent Chair of the Luton Safeguarding Children Board, Michael Preston-Shoot added: “Protecting vulnerable children is everyone’s business, and we all need to be alert, to know what to look out for and where to go for advice, as well as having the confidence to report any acts of abuse safe in the knowledge that they will be acted on.
“This joint campaign will help us to send out a strong message that child sexual exploitation will not be tolerated in Bedfordshire and together we will do everything we can to make it as difficult as humanly possible for anyone to exploit vulnerable children and young people in the county. ”
Independent chair of Central Bedfordshire’s Local Safeguarding Children’s Board, Alan Caton said: “Child sexual exploitation is extremely damaging and has long-lasting effects on victims and their families.
“Recent events across England have highlighted the prevalence of child sexual exploitation in our society and collectively we must do all we can to identify children who are at risk and most importantly bring to justice those offenders who abuse and exploit children and young people.
“Tackling child sexual exploitation must be a priority for all of us. For more details about what to look for and how to report concerns please visit the joint website which has links to different help points including the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board.”
Jenny Myers, Independent Chair of the Bedford Borough Safeguarding Children Board, said: “Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) can be tricky for people to recognise which is why a tip-off from someone who may have noted something which doesn’t seem quite right, can be so incredibly valuable. The joint website is a great resource for those seeking more information on CSE.”
If you are concerned about CSE, you can call police on 101 or visit www.bedfordshireagainstcse.org for further information.
You can also contact the independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through their Anonymous Online Form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information cannot be traced or recorded and you will not go to court.