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Unseen policing keeping children safe across Cumbria

As part of National Child Safety Week, police in Cumbria are highlighting some of the unseen work that is conducted each day to protect children across the county.

Child protection is a key priority for the Constabulary who work with various partner agencies, community groups and members of the public to keep children safe from harm. A large proportion of the numerous measures taken by police officers and staff to keep children in Cumbria safe is work that the public may not be aware of or would see.

With the development of technology and changes to how criminals operate, police in Cumbria are using numerous methods to keep young people safe and tackle those who exploit children by bringing offenders to justice.

Safeguarding measures for vulnerable people, which include children, at risk of threat or harm are at the forefront of all policing activity. The Constabulary is a member of the Cumbria Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) which is a strategic multi-agency partnership that works together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children across the county. Through effective information-sharing and continuous partnership work the LSCB aim to ensure that all agencies, with a safeguarding duty, are doing all they can to protect children. The LSCB will soon be replaced by the Cumbria Safeguarding Children Partnership (CSCP), which will have the same strategic aims and objectives.

Every child and young person subject of a missing person report will have their case reviewed by detectives within the Safeguarding Hub. Not only is unseen policing work conducted to help locate them but further work is done to support the child to prevent them going missing again.

Progress in how the Constabulary record and investigate crime has enabled children vulnerable to exploitation to be identified at an earlier stage. Once identified, police will work quickly to establish the appropriate safeguarding measures to prevent a child being victim to a crime or to stop abuse where it is happening. This work can also lead to the identification of further child victims or those at risk.

Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Dan St Quintin, Cumbria Constabulary Public Protection Unit, said: “The way criminals, who look to exploit children, operate has developed with the continuous advancement in technology. Many of the crimes we deal with are unseen to the public with offenders using online technology to contact children to groom them into sexual or criminal activity. This is happening behind closed doors, sometimes invisible to parents or guardians.

“A significant amount of work we do involves the safeguarding of victims of crime and those identified as being at risk. In Cumbria we work closely with all our partner agencies in order to build as conclusive intelligence picture as possible in order to assess the threat and risk of harm to children and young people in order to keep them safe. With this information we can put in place the appropriate measures to safeguard them.

“Within our control room we have a safeguarding team that reviews risk of harm to vulnerable people and sets actions to ensure that those who need to be kept safe, get the right response at the right time.

“A lot of the work we do to protect children and young people may not necessarily be visible, but I can reassure the public that important work is always ongoing to protect the most vulnerable people we have in the county.”

Between 2017 and 2018 police recorded 489 crimes which were classified as child sexual exploitation, two years earlier (2015-2016) the figure was 292. A similar increase is evident in crimes recorded as cyber enabled crime with the figure standing at 238 between 2017 and 2018, two years earlier it was 101 recorded crimes.

T/DCI St Quintin continued: “It is absolutely vital that parents or guardians maintain a healthy relationship with their children and listen to what concerns they may have. Young people may not always be forthcoming with information so I’d urge that you take an interest in what social media channels they are using and who they are communicating with.

“I am pleased to say that in Cumbria we provide an excellent service to those who are victim of offences as our focus is always to keep people safe and meet the needs of victims. I’d encourage anyone who believes they may be a victim of child sexual exploitation or child criminal exploitation to report it at the earliest opportunity. By doing so we can work with our partner agencies to put in place the appropriate safeguarding and put an end to abuse. We will thoroughly investigate any information we receive in order to bring offenders to justice and safeguard other potential victims.

“There are numerous signs which parents can look out for and I’d urge everyone to consider these. Young people who are being exploited or groomed may not initially be aware what is happening, so it is vital we all look out for children across Cumbria.”

Cumbria Police & Crime Commissioner Peter McCall said: “Sexual exploitation and abuse of our children is a very real issue and one which, together with the police, we must tackle. We can all help by raising awareness of these awful crimes in the county.

“It is important that adults know how to spot the signs of abuse, as children and teenagers might not know that what is happening to them is wrong or feel able to express what is happening to them. It can cause not just damage to their physical, but also huge and lasting damage to their emotional and psychological health.

“We have recently invested additional officers into dealing with Cyber and digital crimes. Tackling online sex crime and supporting our young people are two of the high priority objectives in our Police and Crime Plan.  We are working hard to protect children and vulnerable people in Cumbria but the ongoing support of the public, especially parents, friends, relatives and neighbours, is vital to keeping us informed and putting an end to CSE. I’d like to urge people, if they see or know something, to report it.”

Signs of child sexual exploitation or child criminal exploitation can include:

  • If you feel your child is being secretive about who they are talking to and where they are going
  • Becoming emotionally volatile (mood swings are common in all young people, but more severe changes could indicate that something is wrong)
  • Engaging less with their usual friends
  • Appearing controlled by their phone
  • Regularly missing from home or school
  •  Associating with older men and women, particularly if they go missing and are being defensive about where they are and what they’re doing
  • Possessing items such as phones or jewellery that you haven’t given them but which they couldn’t afford to buy themselves

What to do if you spot signs of exploitation:

  • Think about placing restriction settings on online devices. Find out more at www.thinkuknow.co.uk
  • Always call the police when a child goes missing, even if this happens regularly. You do not need to wait 24 hours
  • Let children or young people know they can talk to someone on anonymous support services such as www.ChildLine.org.uk
  • Explain that it’s easy for people to lie about age, gender, interests online and children should never arrange to meet someone without an adult who they trust
  • Make sure children or young people know that once they share personal details online, including pictures, they lose control over where these may end up.
  • Keep security settings on social media at high levels
  • Listen to what children say and take it seriously. It’s important you believe them

National Child Safety Week runs from 3-9 June 2019.

CSE Recorded Crime in Cumbria

2015-2016 2016-2017 2017-2018
Recorded crime 292 451 489
Year-on-Year % change n/a 54% 8%

Cyber-Enabled CSE Recorded Crime in Cumbria

2015-2016 2016-2017 2017-2018
Recorded crime 101 207 238
Year-on-Year % change n/a 105% 15%

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