Campaign to safeguard vulnerable children on public transport

Education: Primary / Tue 24th Nov 2020 am30 10:15am

ESSEX-wide Campaign to Safeguard Vulnerable Children on Public Transport

A partnership campaign will be launching on Monday 23 November to raise awareness of child exploitation at stations and transport networks in parts of Essex.

Under the banner of Operation Henderson, the joint initiative is being run by Essex Safeguarding Children Board, Southend and Thurrock Safeguarding Children Partnerships, British Transport Police, Essex Police, the Violence and Vulnerability Unit, Rail Operators, local councils and The Children’s Society.

Despite the national lockdown currently in force, young people are still using public transport to get to and from school and many essential services are still running.

Research has shown that young people vulnerable to exploitation are just as likely to be using trains, buses and taxis as they were prior to Covid. A young person travelling on their own during a lockdown is in fact an indicator of potential abuse. They may be unable to stop for fear of punishment from their exploiters.

Research and local data have shown transport networks are used by vulnerable young people who may be at risk of sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation and trafficking. 

Young people often gravitate towards stations because they are anonymous places that also provide some form of shelter and access to food and drink. A young person may use a station or form of public transport in an attempt to disappear. Bus and rail networks can also be used by offenders to traffic young people for the purpose of sexual and criminal exploitation. 

As well as members of the public, all staff working within and around a station, from ticket collectors to engineers, coffee shop workers to cleaners, play an important role in safeguarding vulnerable young people. 

Operation Henderson is an ongoing campaign and targeted work with local business will resume when appropriate to do so. 

David Archibald, ESCB Independent Chair/Facilitator on behalf of the Statutory Partners said: “Child exploitation is a horrendous crime and one we can all play a part in helping to stop. Young people can be particularly vulnerable on trains, stations and transport networks due to the anonymity these places offer. I am pleased that we have been able to work with many partners across Essex to raise awareness of this and hope members of the public will get on board with this campaign and report any concerns they may have.”

Dave King, Design Out Crime Officer, British Transport Police said: “This is another example of collaborative work between the British Transport Police and  stakeholders with a shared aim of identifying vulnerable young people who may be involved in some form of Criminal Exploitation. This brings together some practical activity which will hopefully have a positive impact on a young person’s life and   enhances the ‘Look Closer’ campaign.”

Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner said: “The Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit is working tirelessly to support young people at risk of being exploited by Gangs and County Lines. By educating the public on the ways young people are exploited on our transport systems we hope more children will be protected from this dangerous form of exploitation.”

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