Public urged to Look Closer and report signs of child exploitation
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Northamptonshire Police is joining the Children’s Society, British Transport Police (BTP) and the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre in asking the public to ‘Look Closer’ to help spot children and young people who are being exploited by criminals.
Detective Inspector Andy Blaize said: “Exploitation can affect any child in any community. Children across our county are being sexually and criminally exploited by criminal gangs and predators. We need the public’s help to safeguard these youngsters. They are being manipulated and coerced into everything from county lines drug trafficking, to forced labour, robbery, and violence, and may be subject to sexual abuse.
“The criminals targeting children, groom the youngsters in person and online. They tempt them with promises of cash, gifts, drugs, friendship, and status. Once they’ve lured them in, they then trap them into exploitation by using threats, violence, and sexual abuse.
“We want to encourage people to report their concerns if something doesn’t feel right. The Look Closer campaign is designed to increase awareness of the signs and indicators of child exploitation and abuse. By reporting things, you could be helping a child to escape a situation of terrible abuse while also generating vital intelligence to help us bring those exploiting them to justice.”
Exploited children often don’t see themselves as victimised and may have been manipulated into thinking they are making a choice, and as such, they don’t always look or act like a victim. Young people may also be too scared to tell someone what is happening for fear of the consequences.
The police are asking the public to challenge their own perceptions and Look Closer. Instead of perhaps dismissing a young person as a troublemaker, take a closer look. Could they actually be in trouble and in need of help? The Look Closer campaign urges everyone to be vigilant and look for signs of child exploitation and report their concerns to the police.
Some of the warning signs people are being asked to look out for include:
Children and young people…
Travelling alone, particularly in school hours, late at night or frequently
Looking lost or in unfamiliar surroundings
Anxious, frightened, angry or displaying other behaviours that make you worried about them
In possession of more than one phone
Carrying lots of cash
Potentially under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Being instructed or controlled by another individual
Accompanied by individuals who are older than them
Seen begging in a public space
People should report any concerns to the police on 101. If on a train text British Transport Police on 61016. Dial 999 if there is an immediate risk to a child. Alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously online or call their helpline on 0800 555 111.