Posted: Friday 16th March 2018
Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is happening and together we need to stop it before it starts. Sunday, March 18 marks the National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day and over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with the police and partners to raise awareness of this terrible crime. This has included supporting the Lucy Faithfull Foundation’s, the leading child protection charity, campaign to tackle growing demand for sexual images of children online. The Constabulary have been working hard to detect and prosecute people downloading and sharing sexual images of children online and over the past 12 months have undertaken 90 search warrants and 85 offenders have been charged.
This week I attended a multi-agency meeting with Bristol based Operation Topaz – a partnership response to tackling CSE in the city, which sees agencies share intelligence to investigate reports, catch offenders and support victims. The team have only been operating for the past year and in the past six months have supported 208 victims as well as identifying 160 suspects in cases involving CSE. The Operation Topaz team and partners are also working to understand new figures which reveal that more than half of suspects of grooming investigated in Avon and Somerset are in their early twenties and teenage years. The question for us is to understand why they do this and how can we stop it?
I have made protecting the most vulnerable from harm, which includes tackling CSE a priority in the Police and Crime Plan. Often, a young person doesn’t see themselves as vulnerable or exploited and we need to do more to raise awareness of this crime to prevent it from happening in the first place. Working together we need to prevent more children from becoming victims of CSE, protect children ensuring they are identified and safeguarded and pursue more perpetrators, bringing them to justice. Together, it is for all of us to empower the voices of our young people and help those who have lost theirs along the way. You can find some powerful poems from victims speaking out on my website.
The repercussions of knife crime are vast with devastating effects on loved ones, families and the whole community. On Wednesday, I was in London attending a Knife Crime Roundtable to discuss the response across the country to the increasing threat of knife crime. Tackling knife crime is something I know the police take very seriously, engaging in Operation Sceptre which sees surrender bins but across the city to reduce the number of people carrying knives and educating young people about the dangers of carrying knives. Since the operation started in October 2016, 679 knives have been surrendered, with the surrender bins made a permanent feature.
Finally, I just wanted to update you on the Be Proud Awards and say a big thank you to all of you who took the time to nominate your policing heroes. We received over 230 nominations in total and it’s making picking this year’s finalists a very tricky job indeed. We hope to shortly be announcing this year’s finalists, with lots of worthy recipients from across our communities – watch this space. If you didn’t manage to get your nominations in for this year’s Be Proud Awards but want to recognise someone special in your community, you can still do so by nominating them for one of my Pride Awards. Visit my website to find out how.