A child sexual exploitation awareness campaign launched in the county has seen a 50% increase in referrals from young people thought to have been suffering under the sickening practice.
The Halo campaign has seen Hertfordshire’s local authorities working together with the county’s Safeguarding Children Board to help spot the signs of sexual exploitation in young people.
Business including hotels, licensed premises and taxi firms are now being targeted to look out for indicators that a child is being abused and to take action.
There are a number of common signs associated with child sexual exploitation including staying away from home, having friends who are significantly older and having expensive gifts. If anyone suspects that a child or young person is being sexually exploited they are being asked to report it straight away.
The Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board is promoting the message, ‘say something if you see something’ with the aim of raising awareness what to look out for aif they suspect that a child or young person is being sexually exploited.
Chair of the Board Phil Picton said:”Child sexual exploitation is an issue which affects towns and cities across the country.
“The most effective way to tackle these crimes is to work in partnership and raise awareness of this awful crime amongst professionals, businesses and members of the public.
“Following the launch of the Halo child sexual exploitation awareness campaign last November there has been a 50% increase in referrals to the Halo team. All referrals are fully investigated and where children have been abused police will always work with partners to ensure offenders are brought to justice.”
County council cabinet member for Children’s Services Richard Roberts, who also represents the Kings Langley division moved to reassure the public that child sexual exploitation is not a rife problem in the county.
He said: “Although we do not have a big problem in Hertfordshire, we must always be aware that young people can be groomed and sexually exploited in many ways and at a variety of premises.
“We believe that local businesses, together with district councils, can play a positive role in preventing child sexual exploitation.
“We want to support them in protecting our children and young people and to be vigilant about what goes on in their own businesses to reduce the risk of these crimes. We also want to encourage the wider community to consider the signs to look out for and report any concerns they may have to make sure that children and young people are protected from harm. Everyone has the power to prevent child sexual exploitation. Our message is clear - if you see something, please say something.”
Herts Police’s Asst Chief Con Michelle Dunn said: “I would like to reassure you that our joint working in tackling Child Sexual Exploitation is making a difference, but we must not be complacent.
“We need the help of our communities, including those in business, to ensure these predatory offenders are prevented from committing these crimes. Where crimes do occur we will ensure offenders are brought to justice and children are protected from becoming victims again.
“This is a crime that can truly affect any child, anytime, anywhere –regardless of their gender or social or ethnic background and I would urge members of the public to familiarise themselves with the signs to look out for and ‘say something if you see something’. Your information really could make all the difference, so please report any concerns.”
Anyone with concerns should call the police on the non-emergency number 101 or Children’s Services on 0300 123 4043.
If you have concerns around child sexual exploitation that you feel may help police build intelligence on potential victims or offenders please call police on 101 quoting Halo.