PCC supports campaign to #StopCSE and keep children safe in Sussex
Nine months after a dedicated post was put in place to help tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE), the work of the county’s police force to respond to CSE has been cited as good practice by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC), Katy Bourne, put funding in place last year for a new analyst post to work directly with partners to build a ‘rich picture’ of intelligence to help safeguard vulnerable children.
“The fact that HMIC’s recent Vulnerability inspection report cited this post as good practice is recognition that an intelligence-led approach is the right way to tackle such a complex and challenging issue”, said Mrs Bourne.
Describing her role and the emerging challenges around CSE, Sussex Police CSE analyst Aimee Streeter said: “I have worked for Sussex Police for 12 years now, first as a researcher working in Brighton and then in the Force Intelligence Bureau, working on serious and organised crime cases and responding to critical incidents.
“The CSE analyst post appealed to me principally because there was an opportunity to really contribute to keeping some of the most vulnerable people in our community safe. It was also an opportunity to use the skills that I had developed in my previous roles in an entirely new way.
“CSE is such a complex issue it is often difficult to see where the greatest and most immediate risks might lie. As a CSE analyst I ensure that our response is intelligence-led, so that police resources are focused on investigations and targeting those areas where disruption and prevention is most needed. My current work involves identifying CSE ‘hotspots’ by bringing together data and intelligence from the police and partners such as children’s services, health and education so that safeguarding efforts are focused where there is a real risk.
“I have also set up a working group of CSE analysts from across country, which includes those people either working for local police forces or the national Child Exploitation and Online Protection team. This group has enabled greater information-sharing, from preventative measures to addressing the challenges of young people becoming perpetrators of CSE. This analyst network is in regular contact, working together to improve the way CSE is being addressed nationally.
“Some of the emerging challenges we face include responding to new technologies that aid and assist CSE such as offences being streamed live online and ‘sextortion’. This is where online chat is used to coerce children into producing sexual images or video of themselves. These materials are then used as a way of exploiting the young person with threats to reveal the images to family and friends on social networks. No one agency can operate alone to protect young people at risk of CSE so it’s vital we continue to take a co-ordinated approach to protecting young people.”
Other organisations in Sussex working to tackle CSE are also been supported by funding awarded by the PCC. The YMCA WISE project in West Sussex helps boys and young men who have been victims of CSE. Their service manager, Mark Cull, said: “YMCA DownsLink Group was recently awarded a £10,000 grant from the PCC’s Victims’ Services Fund to develop a programme of workshops for schools and colleges to help prevent children, adolescents and young adults fall victim to sexually abusive and sexually exploitative relationships. Our project will also be engaging with local communities to raise their awareness of sexual exploitation, how to spot it and what to do; including getting the message out there that boys can be victims of sexual exploitation as well as girls.”
A joint project between the YMCA and Brighton based charity, Survivors’ Network has also received a grant worth £10,000 from the PCC to create a specialist educational pack for children and young people who have learning difficulties. Nearly 20% of children who access specialist sexual violence services in Sussex have learning difficulties and are extremely vulnerable to being exploited.
Mrs Bourne concluded: “We all recognise that the challenge of keeping people safe is becoming more difficult. Every day the police uncover the true scale of complex crimes like child abuse, while technology has created new ways to commit crimes. The changing nature of crime requires a different policing response and investment is needed both in new methods of investigation and analysis. No child should ever be the victim of this kind of horrific abuse and I strongly believe that agencies that work with children have a collective responsibility to work together to stamp it out. That is why I am pleased to support the Pan Sussex campaign which demonstrates a shared commitment to tackling CSE by engaging with a number of different audiences and empowering them to help safeguard vulnerable children.”
For information about local support services available for victims of CSE visit: www.safespacesussex.org.uk.