Herts police received 91 reports of children being sexually exploited in run up to Xmas
PUBLISHED: 14:50 16 March 2018 | UPDATED: 16:12 16 March 2018
Herts Police received 91 reports of children being sexually exploited in the county in the last quarter of 2017.
This comes as schools and colleges across the county are being advised to train pupils to spot signs of sexual exploitation.
Head of safeguarding for Herts police Det Supt Paul Maghie said: “Very often the young people who are being sexually exploited in return for drugs, alcohol or social status do not see themselves as victims. As a result they do not to tell people in authority who could help, such as police or teachers, about what is happening to them.
“We do everything in our power to protect these vulnerable young people and target those who seek to exploit them for sex.
“It is important that young people are taught about what exploitation is and that it has no place in any relationship. While as police we also have a range of measures at our disposal to manage suspects and prevent them from being in the company of particular children – just as if they were registered sex offenders.”
The specialist child exploitation unit known as Halo has successfully sought court orders to control the behaviour of suspects by, for example, stopping them from having contact with children under the age of 18.
Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board has developed free resources, such as lesson and assembly plans and video, to help students identify signs someone is being exploited and tell them who to report it to.
A large-scale sexual grooming operation in Telford was exposed this week, following a previous scandal in Rotherham.
Herts County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services Teresa Heritage said: “Child sexual exploitation has been predominant in the national news recently, and although not currently a widespread issue in Hertfordshire, our aim is to prevent any young person in our county from becoming a victim of this terrible crime.
“It’s important professionals and parents help us to educate our young people to understand what this type of abuse might look like and know where to go for help.”
A NSPCC spokesperson said: “It’s clear child sexual exploitaton is a major ongoing child protection issue and too many victims are suffering without getting any help and support, partly because young people will not always recognise they are being exploited and treated as property.
“We want every child to be able to spot exploitation for what it is and, if they find themselves in danger, know that it is categorically not their fault.
“We want any adult who suspects a child is being exploited to pick up the phone and call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 – this is still woefully under-reported.
“Children who are concerned they or a friend may be being exploited can call Childline on 0800 1111 or visit www.childline.co.uk.”
National Child Sex Exploitation Awareness Day is on Sunday, March 18 and people can show their support by writing a personal pledge on their hands and posting the photo on social media with #CSEDay18 and #helpinghands