A campaign to tackle child sexual exploitation in Warwickshire will be launched at an event in Leamington next week.
Staff from Warwickshire Police, Barnardo’s and Warwickshire County Council have formed a team which is supporting the National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day on Monday (March 18) by running a week of events, beginning on Sunday (March 17) as part of the Something's Not Right campaign.
The team will be launching the campaign at the Royal Priors shopping centre in Leamington on Monday.
During 2018, the team supported 104 children and young people affected by child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Warwickshire and conducted 27 prosecutions to combat threats posed by perpetrators.
More than 100 years of imprisonment and comparative restrictive orders and sex offender registration orders were secured.
Since the team has started raising awareness of the issue has been an increase in identified CSE cases by 28 per cent.
The team places a strong emphasis on training and raising awareness in the community as a key feature of its work and has provided courses to staff at hotels, pubs, clubs, bars and fast food venues, taxi drivers and across health organisations and education in secondary and primary Schools to widen our reach.
Det Insp Jill Fowler, of Warwickshire Police, said: "Together with our partners we are committed to protecting children from harm, and we are working to inform, educate and prevent child sexual exploitation.
“Individuals who sexually abuse and exploit children pose a significant risk to our society and we will continue to identify and pursue them through the criminal justice system at every opportunity.
"CSE can affect young people from all walks of life, there is no stereotypical victim of exploitation but there are warning signs in children's behaviour that may indicate something's not right.
"It is important that everyone can recognise these warning signs and know where to turn to for help so that interventions can be put in place at the earliest opportunity.
"If people know what to look out for they can take steps to help a child that is being exploited. Everyone in society has a responsibility to do all they can to protect vulnerable young people.”
Cllr Jeff Morgan, Warwickshire County Council's portfolio holder for children's services, said: "Tackling child sexual exploitation in Warwickshire is a key objective for us as part of our commitment to put children at the heart of everything we do and in our initiatives to keep residents safe.
"CSE is a form of sexual abuse that can affect any child, anytime, anywhere – regardless of their social or ethnic background.
"It is something that we all need to be aware of and take action when we see the signs.”
Anyone with concerns about a child, location or situation should call police on 101 andcan visit www.warwickshirecse.co.uk for more information on how to recognise the signs of exploitation, spot when something is not right and where to get help.
If you are - or know anyone who is - being sexually exploited, please call 101 (always call 999 in an emergency).
The anonymous and free Say Something helpline can be contacted on 116 000.