More than 130 children in Sussex are at risk of systematic sexual exploitation by older youngsters or men, according to Sussex Police.
Working in partnership with the three independent local safeguarding children boards across the county, police have launched a three-month child sexual exploitation awareness and prevention campaign.
In figures released by Sussex Police today (Friday January 15) 139 children were found to be at risk of systematic sexual exploitation by older youngsters or men in Sussex in 2015. Of this total 37 were reported to be at ‘high risk’.
Police stress that not all of the children referred to in the survey, carried out last year, were actually victims at that time.
The data was drawn from police records of missing and found children, information from partner agencies about children they were supporting owing to safeguarding concerns, and specific police operations in which there were suggestions that children may have been exploited.
The assessment also finds that the majority of children referred to are vulnerable to individuals, often to youths or men in their late teens or early twenties, rather than necessarily to groups, although the potential for that is still a concern.
It also acknowledges that this may not be the whole picture, as some potential or actual victims, or some agencies in contact with them, may not always recognise them as victims.
CSE is a form of child abuse in which the victim is given something (food, money, drugs, alcohol or gifts) in exchange for sexual activity with the abuser.
In the 12 months to the end of November 2015 Sussex Police recorded 41 specific crimes which involved child sexual exploitation, half of those involved online activity. 12 have already resulted in prosecution, and a further 23 are currently under investigation. In six cases there was insufficient evidence to support a prosecution.
This is a crime that can affect any child; boys or girls, anytime, anywhere, regardless of their social or ethnic background.
As well as members of the wider public, people being communicated with specifically as part of the campaign include parents and carers, children, professionals, taxi drivers, hotels and B&B’s.
Over the next three months, the campaign is taking a three phased approach, each using a variety of media channels to communicate with those audiences.
The first phase of the campaign which launches on Monday 18 January, aims to increase amongst the general public about CSE, to help them recognise the signs, and incorporates the basic message ‘Child Sexual Exploitation is happening in Sussex’ #StopCSE.
The campaign includes outdoor media using billboards and bus interiors across Sussex and the large ‘Transvision’ screen at Brighton railway station.
A three-week social media campaign for the first phase includes using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, fully supported by partners, focusing on sharing targeted messages, guidance and support for parents and carers and general messaging for CSE awareness.
The launch of the second phase of the campaign in February will directly target children via social media as well as promoting outdoor media in locations including near schools and colleges.
Some children do not see themselves as victims of CSE and the second phase of the campaign is designed to focus on those who might themselves be victims or potential victims or who might see the signs in a friend or sibling. The aim is to help empower them to identify early indicators of CSE and know what support is available to them.
The second phase of the campaign will also deliver messaging and advice to support to professionals such as teachers and nurses who come into contact with children on a regular basis.
In March the third phase of the campaign will focus again on professionals; predominantly those who are taxi drivers or who work in hotels and B&B’s.
There are currently ongoing projects with these professions by local agencies and Sussex Police will be supporting these projects during this phase.
Throughout the whole campaign, the aim is speak directly to different audiences, giving them the tools to assist the police and partners to enhance multi-agency effectiveness in safeguarding children who are victims of or at risk of CSE, as well as targeting perpetrators and bringing them to justice.
This will be achieved by helping those who may or could be victims but also encouraging the reporting of suspicious behaviour or activity of possible perpetrators so they can be brought to justice.
Detective Superintendent Jason Tingley said, “Sussex Police, all three Local Authority areas and partner agencies across Sussex have made good progress on how we share information and consistently assess risk of sexual exploitation for vulnerable children.
“This is not a new problem, but over the past 18 months we have worked hard with partners to develop a better picture of children who are at risk, although it is important to recognise that not all will actually have become victims of specific offences.”
“This campaign reinforces the need to recognise when children are vulnerable or may be subject of sexual exploitation, even when there has not been any disclosure of crime.
“Success for the campaign will be a wider recognition and understanding of what sexual exploitation can be, helping us to safeguard those at risk and relentlessly target the perpetrators.”
The county’s Police & Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, who is providing funding to support targeted advertising on trains during the second phase of the campaign in February, said:
“No child should ever be the victim of this kind of horrific abuse and I strongly believe that all agencies that work with children have a collective responsibility to work together to stamp it out”, she said.
“We must take a collaborative approach in order to effectively tackle such a complex and challenging issue. That is why in March last year I funded a new analyst post within Sussex Police to work directly with partners to build a ‘rich picture’ of intelligence that helps identify offenders and trends and enables disruption and prevention opportunities to be put in place where they are needed.
“I am pleased to support the Pan Sussex campaign, which demonstrates a shared commitment to tackling CSE by engaging with a number of different audiences and empowering them to help safeguard vulnerable children”, Mrs Bourne added.
As well as social media activity and outdoor media through the three phases of the campaign, an educational video has been produced by young people at a youth club in Rye run by East Sussex County Council, in partnership with Sussex Police.
The project was set up to address the challenges young people can face in relationships, addressing a number of points about negative relationships, including sexting, cyber bullying, grooming and control. The project has been supported by the Safer Rother Partnership and Sussex Police through the East Sussex Violent Crime Action Crime Group.
Carol Studley, Partnerships and Community Safety Co-ordinator for Rother, said:” This is an excellent example of how young people in Rother want to work with agencies to inform other young people about what are positive and negative relationships. These young people need to be commended for their brilliant ideas and their contribution to this cause.”
For advice and support about child sexual exploitation abuse visit www.sussex.police.uk or call 101 or 01273 470101. You can also see details, including material being used in the campaign, on the Sussex Police website at www.sussex.police.uk/cse or /cse/child-sexual-exploitation-information-and-guidance-for-parents-and-carers
If you don’t want to talk to the police, talk to someone. SafeSpace Sussex provides a directory of local support services: http://www.safespacesussex.org.uk/
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1) Make our website your homepage
2) Like our Facebook page
3) Follow us on Twitter
4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!
Always the first with your local news.
Be part of it.