Child sexual exploitation is the focus of a week of activity launched by police to raise awareness within Lancashire.
Partners from local councils, trading standards, schools, leisure centres, hotels, the NHS; children’s charities and other agencies will work in conjunction with officers to focus on prevention, awareness, enforcement and engagement with communities across the county.
Tuesday sees the annual CSE Conference taking place in Blackpool. The event attended by CSE experts and practitioners from across the county will concentrate on how police engage with and protect harder to reach communities. The day will cover a broad range of topics including good practice in safeguarding youngsters with learning difficulties; mental health issues; and how to identify and protect children and young people in our black minority ethnic communities. Young people will also attend their own conference hosted by Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw.
Detective Superintendent Andrew Webster, Head of Lancashire Constabulary’s Public Protection Unit said: “Listening to the ‘voice of the child’ is core business for Lancashire Police and our partners. In order to protect children and young people effectively we must understand the complexities and dynamics that many children face, particularly those with additional needs or from communities we have not yet reached.”
Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: “Keeping our young people safe from harm is a key priority for everyone in Lancashire and over the last two years the young people themselves have told us that they want us to be honest and open about the dangers they face.
“The more that young people know about CSE, then the more likely they are able to protect themselves and their friends from potentially predatory behaviour.
“Grooming and exploitation survivors require specialist support and my Nest Lancashire service brings together a number of providers to work with young people offering support, advice and practical help.”
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 or others. 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. 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 relationships with their abusers.
Child sexual exploitation can also occur without physical contact for example when children are groomed; post sexual images of themselves online or are tempted by someone online to meet in the real world. These types of crimes are increasing nationally as well as in Lancashire.
Between April 2015 and March 2016, Lancashire Constabulary received 1754 child sexual exploitation referrals and 630 crimes related to CSE were recorded.
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 and can come from all sections of society. The thing they have in common is that they all prey on the vulnerable.
If you are concerned about a young person you know, call Lancashire Constabulary on 101. In an emergency, always dial 999.
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.
Follow activity throughout the week on Twitter and Facebook pages, just look out for #knowthesigns.