Today sees the launch of a week of activity to continue raising awareness within Lancashire of how to tackle child sexual exploitation, with a focus on the increasing number of victims being targeted online.
Partners from local councils, trading standards, schools, leisure centres, hotels, the NHS and children’s charities will work in conjunction with officers to focus on prevention, awareness, enforcement and engagement with communities across the county.
Between April 2014 and March 2015, Lancashire Constabulary received 1,515 child sexual exploitation referrals and 529 crimes related to CSE were recorded.
Of these referrals, 1,262 were relating to the potential sexual exploitation of girls and 253 were relating to the potential sexual exploitation of boys.
The online child abuse investigation team dealt with 237 intelligence packages about potential downloading of indecent images of children or online grooming. Since 1 April 2015, this has seen a significant increase with 339 packages been dealt with so far.
Child sexual exploitation is child abuse. It is complex and can manifest itself in different ways but essentially it involves children and young people being coerced into performing sexual acts on their abuser.
Often this may be in return for some kind of reward – for example, accommodation, drugs or other gifts but many are forced into sex out of fear of reprisals.
Another aspect of this abuse is that many children and young people do not see themselves as victims and wrongly believe themselves to be in enduring relationships with their abusers.
Child sexual exploitation can also occur without physical contact when children are groomed to post sexual images of themselves online, or are tempted by someone online to meet in the real world. This is a crime that is on the increase nationally as well as in Lancashire.
Offenders can be male or female, of any ethnicity, they can operate alone or as part of a group or gang. They are often very manipulative and plausible people who can come from all sections of society. The thing they have in common is that they all pray on the vulnerable.
Det Insp Tony Baxter from Lancashire Constabulary’s Public Protection Unit said: “This is the third year that we’ve run our child sexual exploitation campaign and we are seeing that more people are aware of this form of abuse and are more confident to come forward to report it, but there is still more to be done.
“While the force has been recognised as leading the way in innovative ways to tackle child sexual exploitation, we are not complacent and it remains a priority for us. We will continue to work with our partners to protect children, prevent child abuse, help victims and target offenders, ultimately bringing them to justice.”
During the week, there will be visits to schools, children’s centres, libraries, children’s homes and takeaways. There will also be training for doctors and nurses at GP surgeries and hospitals on the signs of child sexual exploitation. Local awareness raising events will also take place and in some areas there will be theatre productions in schools and at youth clubs.
Det Insp Baxter added: “The public quite rightly expects us to protect children from being exploited, particularly as new threats emerge such as online grooming through gaming and chat forums, an area that we are highlighting through this year’s awareness week.
“I want to remind the public that our approach is a long-term one that will reach far beyond the week of awareness. Our dedicated teams of officers are working everyday with young people who are being exploited to firstly get them to recognise that they have been or are being exploited, and to find ways of helping them to break free from the position they find themselves coerced into.
“We would encourage anyone who has been, or knows someone who has been, sexually abused, groomed or exploited to come forward and contact police confident in the knowledge they will be dealt with sensitively and professionally.”
If you are concerned about a young person you know, call Lancashire Constabulary on 101. In an emergency, always dial 999.
You can also visit www.lancashire.police.uk/cse for lots more information, or visit our website dedicated for young people- www.trusted2know.co.uk/cse – for help and advice on a range of subjects including child sexual exploitation.
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