Cambridgeshire police ask for public help to tackle child exploitation

Officers investigating child exploitation in the county are asking people working in key areas to help them protect young people.

It is believed teachers, taxi drivers, hotel staff and those working at fast food outlets could play a vital role in helping to tackle the issue.

Police want hotels, taxi drivers and bars and pubs to watch for the signs of child sexual exploitation. PNL-180731-114815001

Police want hotels, taxi drivers and bars and pubs to watch for the signs of child sexual exploitation. PNL-180731-114815001

Some perpetrators use taxis to transport children to locations, often hotels, to be exploited. The offenders may regularly buy the victims gifts, or take them to fast food outlets as part of attempts to groom them.

On Monday (March 18) officers will be marking Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Day by speaking to people in some of these job roles and sharing information.

Both girls and boys can become victims of exploitation – with people they see as friends or boyfriends taking advantage of them sexually or by coercing them into committing crime such as drug dealing.

Signs of exploitation include:

- The child being regularly absent from school

- Appearing drunk or under the influence of alcohol

- Having an older boyfriend or friends

- Expensive unexplained gifts, such as mobile phones, jewellery etc

- Seeming scared or overly secretive/evasive

On June 18 officers will be holding free training sessions at Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s headquarters in Huntingdon to raise awareness of child exploitation. It is hoped that this event will increase knowledge of the issue and people’s confidence to report concerns.

Detective Inspector Claire Hewson, of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, said: “It’s vital that everyone knows the signs of exploitation and reports any concerns. We all have a responsibility to protect children in our communities.

“It is particularly important the people working in these key areas have the necessary knowledge as they are more likely to witness child exploitation or behaviour linked to it. If a situation doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts and report it.”

Cllr Simon Bywater, chairman of the Children and Young People Committee at the county council, said: “Cambridgeshire County Council takes the exploitation of young people extremely seriously. We work tirelessly with our partner agencies including the police to identify and stop abusers.

“Our Missing, Exploited and Trafficked (MET) hub makes sure that any young person who has been missing from home or from care has an opportunity to speak to an independent person about any issues that may be troubling them.

“This team works closely with the police and other partners to ensure that action is taken in relation to any adults who are seeking to target vulnerable young people for exploitation. A crucial part of our work, however, is the part that families and friends play in sharing concerns with us – so if you are worried about a child or young person, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.”

Anyone who is concerned a child is being exploited should call 101 or visit www.cambs.police.uk/report. In an emergency, or if a crime is in progress, always dial 999.

Alternatively, to contact Cambridgeshire County Council call 0345 045 5203 (8am-6pm, Monday to Friday), 01733 234 724 (out of hours) or email referralcentre.children@cambridgeshire.gov.uk.

To register an interest in the free training session email: Partnerships&OpsSupportNeighbourhoods@cambs.pnn.police.uk.

For more information on child exploitation and the signs visit www.cambs.police.uk.