Working in partnership with the three independent local safeguarding children boards across the county, police have launched a three-month child sexual exploitation awareness and prevention campaign.
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The figures were drawn from police records of missing and found children, information from partner agencies about children they were supporting owing to safeguarding concerns, and specific police operations in which there were suggestions that children may have been exploited.
In the 12 months to the end of November 2015 Sussex Police recorded 41 specific crimes which involved child sexual exploitation, half of those involved online activity. 12 have already resulted in prosecution, and a further 23 are currently under investigation. In six cases there was insufficient evidence to support a prosecution.
The assessment also finds that the majority of children referred to are vulnerable to individuals, often to youths or men in their late teens or early twenties, rather than necessarily to groups, although the potential for that is still a concern.
Safeguard those at risk
Detective Superintendent Jason Tingley said: "This is not a new problem, but over the past 18 months we have worked hard with partners to develop a better picture of children who are at risk, although it is important to recognise that not all will actually have become victims of specific offences.
"This campaign reinforces the need to recognise when children are vulnerable or may be subject of sexual exploitation, even when there has not been any disclosure of crime. Success for the campaign will be a wider recognition and understanding of what sexual exploitation can be, helping us to safeguard those at risk and relentlessly target the perpetrators."
The first phase of the campaign launches this week [18 Jan] and aims to increase amongst the general public about CSE with outdoor media using billboards and bus interiors across Sussex and the large ‘Transvision’ screen at Brighton railway station carrying the message: ‘Child Sexual Exploitation is happening in Sussex #StopCSE'.
A three-week social media campaign for the first phase will also see use of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, fully supported by partners, focusing on sharing targeted messages, guidance and support for parents and carers and general messaging for CSE awareness.
The launch of the second phase of the campaign in February will directly target children via social media as well as promoting outdoor media in locations including near schools and colleges.
This phase of the campaign will also deliver messaging and advice to support to professionals such as teachers and nurses who come into contact with children on a regular basis.
To find out more visit www.sussex.police.uk/cse or /cse/child-sexual-exploitation-information-and-guidance-for-parents-and-carers