Child Sexual Exploitation. Three words that may not mean a lot to the general public in Wiltshire. But CSE is a priority for Wiltshire Police.
It can happen to boys and young men, as well as girls and young women from any background. It can involve children receiving food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts or money, as a result of them performing sexual activities. It can also occur through the use of technology. The challenge for agencies is ever move complex.
Safeguarding our young people, preventing and diverting them away from danger needs to become a priority. We at Wiltshire Police are working closely with partner agencies to safeguard our children from abuse like this. CSE is all about preying on vulnerable young people, and as Chief Constable, I am determined to do all that we can put a stop to it.
It is really important that we raise awareness of the issue so people know what to look out for and who they can turn to – we all have a role to play in stamping out CSE but I believe people’s knowledge of the issue may be a barrier at present. On March 18, a national day of awareness around CSE will be held and we will be throwing our full weight behind the campaign. It is really important that if you suspect a child is at immediate risk of CSE please call 999. Lots of effective partnership work is already underway but as public services, we need to integrate our approach to improve the service.
Last month, I attended the Child Rescue Alert Awards, held in London, with special guest Sir Bob Geldof. The awards recognised and celebrated those who have gone the extra mile for Child Rescue Alert, the life-saving system that alerts people to high risk child abductions and disappearances in the UK. It is very similar to the Amber Alert in America.
Fortunately, we have never had to use it for an incident here in Wiltshire, but as the national lead for missing people, I am really keen to help spread the word about CRA and will be carrying out a lot of work over the next few months to raise awareness of the system, so watch this space. In the meantime, members of the public can register at www.childrescuealert.org.uk.
The end of March will see us entering the pre re-election period for the Police and Crime Commissioner, also known as purdah. As you will hopefully know, it is my role to be apolitical, so it is not something I will be commenting on, however, it is important to stress that it is business as usual for the Force.
Finally, I’d like to close with a plea to drivers to take care when out and about on Wiltshire’s roads. It may seem obvious, but it is important that we do not become complacent when we step into our vehicles. Last week alone, we had two fatalities within the county. Two lives cut short and two families left to grieve the loss of a loved one – my thoughts remain with them at this desperately sad time.
While investigations will be carried out into each collision, two fatalities in a week is two too many. Wiltshire Police are committed to making our county’s roads as safe as possible, but I would like to make a personal plea to drivers to please ensure your vehicles are safe and you are alert at all times.