Child sexual exploitation is the focus of a major new campaign launched today.
Called ‘Know the Signs’, it highlights the potential indicators of the crime, particularly among parents and carers.
West Yorkshire Police’s temporary assistant chief constable, Ingrid Lee said it is vital that people understand the implications of this very serious crime:
She added: “Child Sexual Exploitation is when someone under the age of eighteen is groomed by an adult with the intention that they or another person sexually assaults or rapes them.
“Grooming takes place under many guises, in any community and on varying platforms. This can be at 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.
“In a majority of the cases, we find that the victims are young girls and the offenders are older men, however; young boys can be victims too and we must all be vigilant to identify the signs.
“This campaign is specifically designed to highlight the signs to parents, carers, friends and family through various methods of communication.”
Signs include: Children spending an excessive amount of time online and being secretive about their activities, having significantly older boyfriends or lots of new friends and going missing or skipping school.
Assistant chief constable Lee said: “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. Our literature and online guidance will allow young people to recognise these tactics.
“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.
“The Force continues to work side by side with local authorities, organisations and charities to tackle Child Sexual exploitation head on and we are absolutely committed to raising people’s awareness and tackling this dreadful abuse of our young people.”
Hard hitting radio adverts are to be broadcast throughout West Yorkshire, which inform people of what to look out for and how to report suspicions.
Posters and advice cards are also being distributed to communities by Neighbourhood Policing Teams.
The West Yorkshire Police website also has a dedicated section offering information and advice on the issue at www.westyorkshire.police.uk/cse
Anyone who has been subjected to Child Sexual Exploitation, knows somebody who has or has information about those involved in this crime, should call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.