Police are asking public to #LookCloser to spot signs of child exploitation

The police are asking the public to #LookCloser in order to spot children and young people who are being exploited by criminals.

Northamptonshire Police is joining the Children’s Society, British Transport Police (BTP) and the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre in the #LookCloser campaign.

It's designed to increase awareness of the signs and indicators of child exploitation and abuse and to encourage members of the public and those working in the service, retail and transport industries to report concerns promptly to the police.

Detective Superintendent Joe Banfield, Head of Public Protection for Northamptonshire Police said: “We are seeing more and more children and young people being manipulated and coerced by predatory criminals onto the path of criminality and we need the public’s help to keep them safe.

“Exploitation can affect any child in any community. Children are being coerced into everything from county lines drug trafficking, to forced labour, robbery and violence, and may also be subject to sexual abuse.

“Predators groom children in person and online. They lure them with promises of cash, gifts,  drugs, friendship and status. They then trap them into exploitation using terrifying threats, violence and sexual abuse.

“But an exploited child often doesn’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.

“We are asking the public to challenge their own perceptions and #LookCloser. 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? Look Closer urges everyone to look for signs of child exploitation and report concerns to the police.”

The rail network is often used by exploited young people, but they can go hidden in plain sight on public transport. During the #LookCloser campaign officers from Northamptonshire Police will be working with officers from BTP. They will be handing out leaflets and engaging with staff and passengers at stations in the county to alert them to the signs.

In addition, Northamptonshire Police Officers will be visiting town centres and engaging with hotels, retailers, and fast-food outlets to share information and encourage people to look out for warning signs of child criminal exploitation and to report it.

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

James Simmonds-Read, National Programme Manager at The Children’s Society’s Prevention Programme, which runs the Look Closer campaign, said: “Whether you are a morning commuter, or working as a checkout attendant, ticket inspector or hotel receptionist, you can be vigilant for signs of exploitation in public places like transport hubs, shopping centres and parks.

“People may assume victims will be of a particular gender, age or background, or clearly seem vulnerable and upset. But we know exploitation can affect any child in any community and that trauma may cause some children to appear angry or aggressive.

“Growing numbers of young people are being approached to sometimes unwittingly hold proceeds of crime in their bank accounts, so we are asking bank staff, the public and parents to be vigilant for this and recognise it is child exploitation, not just fraud.

“By reporting things that don’t feel right, either in the community or online, you may be helping a child to escape a situation of horrific abuse while also generating vital intelligence to help police bring those exploiting them to justice.”

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.


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