Hertfordshire police officers support National Child Exploitation Awareness Day

The Helping Hands campaign aims to spread the word on the signs to look out for

Police officers and staff across Hertfordshire are supporting the National Child Exploitation Awareness Day campaign today (Wednesday) by writing pledges on their palms to raise awareness.

Deputy Chief Constable Michelle Dunn and Assistant Chief Constable Bill Jephson supporting the campaign

Deputy Chief Constable Michelle Dunn and Assistant Chief Constable Bill Jephson supporting the campaign

The National Working Group’s (NWG’s) Helping Hands campaign aims to spread the word on the signs to look out for and how to report it.

Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Halo team, made up of police officers and staff dedicated to detecting, disrupting and preventing child exploitation, are leading on the force’s support for the campaign by posting photos of their ‘Helping Hands’ on social media, with the hashtags #CEADay20 and #HelpingHands.

The co-ordinator of the team works with partner organisations* to deliver a multi-agency response to tackling child sexual exploitation in Hertfordshire.

Halo Detective Sergeant Marc Willmore said: “I’d like to start by reassuring the community that we do not have a serious issue with child exploitation in Hertfordshire, however by its very nature it is a difficult crime to investigate.

A collage of Helping Hands from across the force today

A collage of Helping Hands from across the force today

“It is often under-reported due to victims not seeing themselves this way, because the offenders have groomed them into believing they are in a relationship.

“Therefore investigations can often be protracted and require a lot of perseverance in building a rapport with a vulnerable young person so they trust that we are there to help them.

“Despite the often upsetting situations we come across, our work has the capacity to be extremely rewarding.

"We are passionate about safeguarding children and young people, as well as disrupting and bringing to justice the perpetrators of child exploitation.

“The enlarged team will allow us to make an even bigger difference to the lives of vulnerable victims.

“It’s so important for us to come together with colleagues and partners in support of National Child Exploitation Awareness Day, and help give young people a voice at a time they may feel scared to speak.”

Four new officers have recently joined the Halo team, and its increased capacity means it will provide further proactive support across the force’s safeguarding command, allowing resources to be targeted at those they consider most at risk as well as at those who are responsible for child exploitation.

This begins with all referrals referencing potential exploitation being sent to them directly, meaning investigations can be launched earlier.

They will also be able to dedicate more time to proactive covert and overt work, this involves the delivery of awareness training in the community, so people know to say something if they see something.

The Child Exploitation Disruption Co-ordinator, supported by other members of the team, provides a training package to those working in sectors such as education, sports, leisure, hospitality and the night-time economy.

This enables those in positions having direct contact with young people to learn how to spot the signs someone may be in a situation where they are being exploited, and how to make the appropriate organisations aware so action can be taken.

Internally, the team are also educating police officers and staff across the force on the signs to look out for and as a result they are becoming more equipped to identify CSE at a local level.

If you have concerns about a young person you can report them online, or call Hertfordshire Police on 101.