POLICE have launched a major campaign to help adults spot children at risk of sexual exploitation.
West Yorkshire Police has today launched its Know The Signs campaign, aimed at informing parents and carers of the dangers of child sex exploitation.
Police say grooming can take place under many guises – but a common theme is that the perpetrators prey on the vulnerability of their victim.
The campaign has been welcomed by Kirklees and Calderdale councils, whose staff are also involved.
Bron Sanders, Chair of Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board, said:
“The campaign is a wake-up call.
“We all need to be vigilant, to challenge and stop the sexual exploitation of children.
“Identifying the warning signs highlighted in this campaign is one of the first steps we can take to protecting children.”
However, Mrs Sanders said while they work well with the police, they know more can be done, adding: “We recognise that there is still a lot of work to be done to prevent exploitation and to rescue child victims. It’s essential that we work together to achieve this.”
Child sexual exploitation is when someone under the age of eighteen is groomed by an adult with the intention they or another person will sexually assault or rape them.
Ingrid Lee, West Yorkshire Police Temporary Assistant Chief Constable, says it is vital that people understand the implications of this very serious crime: “In some cases, the victims do not realise that they are being exploited and part of our campaign is focused on the behaviour of the perpetrators.
“These men may display possessive, jealous and violent characteristics.
“Some use gifts, money, alcohol and drugs to influence and control their victims.
“Ultimately, we need everyone to be mindful of behaviour indicative of child sexual exploitation.
“We all have a responsibility to confront this terrible crime and to protect those who are the most vulnerable in society.”
Police say grooming can take place under many guises, in any community from a street level, in the home, in person, on the telephone or over the internet via chat-rooms or social networking sites.
A common theme is that the perpetrators prey on the vulnerability of their victim.
It often starts with apparent affection and kindness to build their confidence with a view to committing a serious sexual offence.
Clr Megan Swift, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services, said: “Child sexual exploitation is a devastating crime, damaging young lives and harming families and communities.”
Jane Booth, Independent Chair of the Safeguarding Children Board added: “A clear message is needed that those committing these crimes against children and young people will be brought to justice.”
If you are concerned about a child at risk of exploitation call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
A dedicated section of the force website has been created to offer information and advice surrounding the subject. Go to:www.westyorkshire.police.uk/cse