A campaign to raise awareness of the risk of sexual exploitation (CSE) to children involved in gangs is being launched today by Northamptonshire Police, to coincide with National CSE Awareness Day this Sunday, March 18.
The campaign aims to raise public awareness of the early signs of gang involvement among children, and the threat of violence and sexual exploitation which gang association can pose.
Gangs typically recruit and exploit children and vulnerable young people to courier drugs and cash and once involved they are also at risk of sexual exploitation, girls being especially at risk – though that does not mean boys aren’t vulnerable too.
The signs people across Northamptonshire are being asked to look out for are as follows:
• Persistently going missing from school or home
• Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes or mobile phones
• Excessive receipt of texts or mobile phone calls
• Relationships with controlling, older people or gang association
• Leaving home or care without explanation
• Significant decline in school performance
• Significant changes in emotional wellbeing
• Physical injuries/ self-harming
• Parental concerns
Anybody who knows of a child displaying some or all of these signs is asked to report their concerns immediately (details below).
Assistant Chief Constable James Andronov, who is the Regional policing lead for CSE, said:
“Tackling CSE is a national, regional and local policing priority, one which we share with all our partner agencies.
“Early intervention is fundamental to deter children from involvement in urban street gangs which we know are operating in this county.
“It’s absolutely crucial we raise public awareness and encourage our communities to report the signs of gang involvement in order for us to protect children and disrupt offenders. “
Keith Makin, who is the Chair of the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Board (NSCB), said:
“Children are lured into gangs by the promise of earnings or valuable assets like designer clothes or jewellery. “Involvement in urban street gangs can be seen as an avenue for young members to be accepted by elders and progress up the gang and serious organised crime hierarchy and become completely enmeshed – early intervention is fundamental to deter children from getting involved. “Because of what we know about how gangs operate, we are all too aware that the exploitation of young people is a common feature in the facilitation of ‘county lines’* drugs supply, with high levels of violence and intimidation used to establish and maintain markets. This can include the use of knives, corrosives, firearms and other weapons. It will often include sexual exploitation too.”
Detective Inspector Kev Wooldridge, who leads the RISE (Reducing Incidents of Sexual exploitation) team, said:
“CSE is the sexual assault and rape of children – nothing less. It’s crucial we do all we can to prevent it.
“We currently have a number of initiatives aimed at early intervention, for example the Northampton North East pilot hub which consists of a multi-agency team working with 47 schools across the area with children thought to be at risk of exclusion referred to an Early Help Coordinator who works with the child to divert them away from gang involvement. The pilot scheme started in September 2017 and if successful, it will be rolled out to other areas of the county.
“Initiatives like this can’t tackle the problem alone and we need the public to be our eyes and ears so they can pass on information about vulnerable children so we can safeguard them and protect them from harm.”
If you have concerns a child is at risk, contact the Child Safeguarding Team on 0300 126 1000.
* ‘County Lines’ Is the term used to describe the approach taken by gangs originating from large urban areas, who travel to locations elsewhere such as county or coastal towns to sell Class A drugs. Gangs typically recruit and exploit children and vulnerable young people to courier drugs and cash. Typically, users ask for drugs via a mobile phone line used by the gang. Couriers travel between the gang’s urban base and county or coastal locations on a regular basis to collect cash or deliver drugs.