The office of the police and crime commissioner’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) has been working with Hampshire County, Portsmouth City, Southampton City and Isle of Wight councils on Is Your Child Safe? which offers help on how to see the signs, what to do and where to get help.
Children who are subject to exploitation are often reported as missing to the police. From July 2022 to June 2023, 3,576 children were reported missing to Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary. Children who go missing regularly are much more vulnerable to exploitation and it is often the most common sign something is wrong.
Exploitation is when individuals or groups take advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child into doing what they want in exchange for something the child wants or needs. This can include the child being coerced into having sex or committing crimes, like carrying and delivering cash or drugs for a gang.
PCC for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Donna Jones said: “As a partnership, we must ensure we are doing everything we can to prevent the criminalisation of children and protect them from exploitation and abuse by people they think are their friends.
“This awareness starts with seeing the signs, whether that’s parents, guardians or care givers; all have a role in understanding what exploitation looks like and where to get help. Better outcomes for all children need a consistent approach to child safety which is why I am really pleased to be launching this campaign in partnership again this year.”
Director of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight VRU Jim Pegler said: “There is strong evidence that shows children who have positive and trusted adult role models are less likely to be exploited into criminality or violence.
“I know it can be difficult to fund activity and often parents and guardians have to work throughout the summer holidays to provide for their families. However, most local authorities have online resources which list activities available over the summer to ensure those who care for children have options which can help keep their child safe.”
For more information go to hampshire-pcc.gov.uk/iycs.