A new drive to help people know how to spot the signs of a child in danger, and who to contact if they are concerned, is being launched across Wiltshire.
The message – child exploitation we need your help to stop it – will be shared widely encouraging taxi drivers, train and bus staff as well as the general public to look out for the signs and help protect young people.
The initiative comes to help track down cases where young people are victims of child sexual exploitation or child criminal exploitation and encourage the public to raise the alarm if they have concerns.
People are being encouraged to look out for children and young people who are:
- Travelling during the school day or during unusual hours, such as late in the evening
- With an older individual who appears controlling
- A victim of physical assault or unexplained injuries
- Receiving lots of texts, phones or video calls
- Looking withdrawn or distressed in the company of adults
- In a vulnerable state due to drink or drugs, accompanied by older individuals
- Possibly from another area, look lost or have a distinct accent
- Collected and taken to hotels, parties, B&Bs or other gatherings
- With an adult expressing sexualised behaviour to them
- Dropped off at any location that causes concern
- Having their fares paid by adults who are not in the taxi
Cllr Laura Mayes, Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Children, Education and skills said: “We know young people are out there who are being exploited and we are asking for your help to put a stop to it. Public transport is often used, so we want our taxi drivers, train staff and bus drivers and everyone using transport to look out and speak out. Sometimes it may be something doesn’t feel right or it may be a larger concern – we want to hear from you so we can respond and help our vulnerable young people get the support they need.”
Cllr Mary Martin, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “As a council, our top priority is looking after vulnerable people. When it comes to children at risk of exploitation, we need the help of the wider community to identify those who might be at risk.
“This collaborative campaign is a good opportunity for us to alert members of the public to what might be happening around them and to ask them to help us ensure our youngsters are protected from harm.”
Police and Crime Commissioner, Angus Macpherson, said: “This is a good example of how a joined up approach between the police and partner agencies can work to fight against child exploitation.
“This work with other partners and the police taps in to the expertise of those involved in the public transport industry, those who transport thousands of people a day and who can spot a vulnerable child or young person. This expertise ties in with the good work carried out by our police and local authorities.
“But, we all need to be the eyes and ears of the police as it is our responsibility as active citizens to raise any concerns we might have about a child we think might be suffering from abuse or exploitation.
“A reminder from things like these posters and flyers will help the public – you and I – be mindful to child exploitation.”
Detective Supertendent Ben Mant, Head of Wiltshire Police’s Public Protection Department, said: “These posters and flyers will help with our ongoing work around Child Sexual Exploitation and Child Criminal Exploitation.
“Being able to spot the signs that point towards a child or young person being exploited is crucial in our work with our partners to clamp down on this type of crime.
“There are so many reasons why a child could be manipulated and coerced in to doing something they may not want and it’s up to us all to notice as early on as possible so we can all try and prevent it and in some cases save a child from a life of misery and crime.”