Essex Police help to safeguard vulnerable children on public transport

Crime / Fri 7th Apr 2023 at 11:26am

POLICE officers have been working to raise awareness of child exploitation on public transport across Essex.

They’ve been visiting rail and bus stations with staff from partner agencies and charities to talk to passengers, transport staff and businesses about the signs of exploitation and how to report concerns.

Detective Chief Inspector Dan Morrissey is the Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Lead for Essex Police. He says: “Child exploitation can have a terrible effect on children and young people who are targeted and abused by adults seeking to groom and take advantage of them for criminal gain.

“Public transport is frequently used by children and young people travelling on their own but this leaves them vulnerable to people who want to exploit them for sexual and criminal purposes.

“So, our officers work with colleagues from many agencies to raise awareness of this awful criminal activity because we want people who use or work in public transport to able to spot the signs of vulnerability and exploitation and identify children and young people who are at risk so they can be safeguarded.

“We all need to play our part and help stop child exploitation in our communities. If you see something which is suspicious, I urge you to report it to us.”

Yesterday, Wednesday 5 April, Essex Police and British Transport Police officers visited Essex rail and Tube stations with outreach workers from the Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit; Braintree, Chelmsford, Colchester and Southend community safety partnerships; Essex Social Care; Thurrock Social Care; The Railway Children charity; and The Children’s Society. Staff from Chelmsford City Council also visited Chelmsford bus and rail stations. 

Travelling along identified key routes, they talked to members of the public as well as staff working within and around stations, from ticket collectors and engineers to coffee shop workers and taxi drivers, who all play an important role in safeguarding vulnerable young people.

They also highlighted the awareness training available for these staff under the banner of Operation Henderson.

LINK: https://www.escb.co.uk/about/campaigns/operation-henderson

Essex Safeguarding Children Board (ESCB) says research and local data shows 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. 

David Archibald, ESCB Independent Chair, says: “Child exploitation is a horrendous crime and one we can all play a part in helping to stop. Young people can be particularly vulnerable using public transport due to the anonymity these places offer. I’m proud that we continue to work with our partners across Essex to raise awareness of how to spot exploitation and report concerns.”

Iain Palmer, Head of Security and Revenue Protection at c2c, says: “Days such as this are so important; the visible nature of these patrols provides reassurance for customers and sends a clear, visible message that safeguarding vulnerable children on our network is a key priority. We’re proud to work with our industry partners to collaborate on such initiatives and play our part in supporting our local communities.” 

PC Ian Laithwaite works in the Violence & Vulnerability Department within Southend Community Policing Team.

He says: “Today was an opportunity to work alongside partner agencies in highlighting the signs and effects of criminal exploitation.

“We had lots of positive engagement with railway passengers, railway staff, local taxi drivers and bus drivers in Southend and, hopefully, we provided them with the necessary information and tools to enable them to identify the warning signs and give them the confidence and knowledge to challenge, report and disrupt child exploitation when they see it.”

Operation Henderson is a joint initiative run by Essex Safeguarding Children Board alongside Southend and Thurrock Safeguarding Children Partnerships in conjunction with British Transport Police, Essex Police, the Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit, The Railway Children charity, The Children’s Society, Greater Anglia, c2c, Transport for London, Essex Social Care and local bus operators and local councils.

Spotting the signs

Find out more about Operation Henderson and how to spot the signs of vulnerability and exploitation. Here you will also find details of the Spot It, Stop It scheme for businesses to sign up for awareness training about child exploitation.

LINK: https://www.escb.co.uk/about/campaigns/operation-henderson

The Look Closer campaign is a joint initiative with The Children’s Society and British Transport Police encouraging members of the public to learn the signs of child exploitation and understand how to report things if you are worried. 

The campaign focuses nationally on public spaces like bus and train stations, fast food outlets, roadside services, and hotels – places where young victims of exploitation could be visible.

LINK: https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/blogs/looking-closer-public-spaces-spot-child-exploitation

What to do if you have concerns 

If you have concerns about child exploitation, you can report them online at www.essex.police.uk/ro where you can also speak to an online Live Chat operator on weekdays between 10am and 9pm. Alternatively, you can ring 101.

You can also contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, online or by calling 0800 555 111.

If you have concerns about suspicious activity in the grounds of a train station, you can text British Transport Police (BTP) on 61016.

Always ring 999 if it is an emergency or a crime in progress.

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1 Comment for Essex Police help to safeguard vulnerable children on public transport:

Leon shwe
2023-04-07 13:58:41

Thank you i always feel unsafe on the bus glad the police are stepping in to help

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