A DETECTIVE has spoken of how officers rescued a child from a drug dealer's house, as a new campaign aims to teach the public to spot the signs of exploitation.

Get Safe – an initiative by West Mercia Police, Worcestershire's Children's Services and other partners – will see experts across the county educating people on how to identify a young person at risk of either sexual or criminal exploitation, and where to report their concerns.

Detective Inspector Chris Watson, who is West Mercia Police's lead for the campaign, said: “A big part of the Get Safe plan is changing the perception and recognising that children are victims here.

“An example of this is where we executed a drugs warrant at the home of a well-known suspected drug dealer. We recovered a small amount of drugs but, most importantly, identified a child that was at risk of significant harm within that household.

“We were able to work in partnership with Children’s Services to protect the child. In my view that is where success lies: in safeguarding those most vulnerable.”

A key element of Get Safe is the various authorities in the county sharing information to identify at-risk children and put a plan in place to help them.

Members of the Get Safe team will be out in the county this week to raise awareness of their campaign.

The public can see speak to them on:

  • Tuesday, June 25 in Worcester, from 10am – 6pm in Cathedral Square.
  • Wednesday, June 26 in Redditch, from 11am – 3pm in Church Green West, by the market at the back of the Kingfisher Centre.
  • Thursday, June 27 in Kidderminster, from 1pm – 6pm, by the Town Hall.
  • Friday, June 28 in Evesham, from 10am – 1pm, outside the Town Hall.

A Get Safe spokesman said: "Child exploitation comes in many different forms, including: forcing children to carry out crime, gang-related activity, sexual exploitation, trafficking, modern day slavery, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and recruitment into broader criminality.

"The Get Safe approach will be looking to improve and enhance the awareness of professionals and communities to recognise children as victims rather than offenders, especially when they have been forced into crimes such as selling drugs.

"In cases such as this, Get Safe will address risk through multi-agency planning and an agreement will be made on how to appropriately safeguard any at-risk children.

"Get Safe will coordinate partners to contribute to how offenders will be disrupted and ensure that appropriate messages are conveyed to concerned professionals or parents."

Members of the public are advised of the following signs that a child is being exploited:

•Going missing from home or school; frequenting areas associated with exploitation; substance use; committing offences.

•Having new material items and money; excessive and secretive use of mobile phone; having multiple mobile phones or changing numbers.

•Relationships with controlling/significantly older adults; isolation from peers to engage in new and harmful behaviours; association with peers who present a risk of harm and against parents' wishes.

•Decline in physical and mental health, including sexually transmitted infections; changing appearance (weight loss, changes to personal hygiene, signs of exhaustion); self-harm or significant changes in emotional wellbeing.

•Significant decline in school performance; violence against parents; loss of parental control.

‘Diversionary schemes’ funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner, Jon Campion, will aim to provide at-risk children with activities and support to draw them away from trouble.

The Get Safe spokesman added: “Whilst Worcestershire is a safe place, there is no place for any child to be exploited. We invite information in relation to anyone who may be at risk and information in relation to those who are committing offences who are exploiting the vulnerable.

“We must all work together to tackle all forms of exploitation.

“If you are a child or young person being forced to do things you do not want to do, even commit crime, we can help you.

“If you are a parent or carer, please know the signs and report appropriate concerns.”

Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or West Mercia on 101, to report your concerns.

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