“Are you listening?” – that’s the question being asked in a new film aiming to help tackle criminals exploiting children.
Launching today this powerful film, funded by the Violence Reduction Network (VRN) and produced in conjunction with police and partners across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR), is hoping to raise awareness of a growing issue in the UK – known as ‘Child Criminal Exploitation’ (CCE).
This is when a child or young person is targeted by an individual or criminal gang and manipulated or coerced into committing crimes.
Just three minutes long, the film is asking people to know the signs and to act immediately if they have information or concerns.
Grace Strong, Strategic Director of the Violence Reduction Network, said it was vital that adults who are in a position of trust recognise of the signs of CCE.
She added: “Everyone has a role in preventing the criminal exploitation of children and young people. This film seeks to help adults spot the signs of a problem and highlight the crucial part they can play by taking appropriate action. Every one of us can potentially make a difference to the safety of a child.”
Evidence shows children are more likely to open up to an adult they have an existing and trusting relationship with. This can include parents, grandparents and extended family members, teachers or other school staff, sports or leisure coaches and community leaders.
Children don’t always speak up when they are in trouble but there are often some clear signs that could indicate they are being exploited. They don’t always see themselves as victims so won’t always act as if something is wrong.
Some of the common signs shown in the film include changes in ‘normal’ behaviour, increased messages or calls, having new belongings that can’t be accounted for and regular absence from school, groups or clubs.
Across the UK the issue of CCE is considered to be a growing child protection concern and is a current national policing priority.
The most common type of crimes children are being used for are the selling and holding of drugs - often as part of ‘County Lines’ activity, carrying and storing money and weapon and committing theft, burglary of robbery.
In LLR, police, social care and health staff work together as part of a multiagency safeguarding hub which works with children and their families at risk of both criminal and sexual exploitation.
This year (Jan-Sept), professionals in the hub have worked with around 178 children, as young as nine, deemed to be at risk of exploitation.
Detective Chief Inspector Gavin Drummond, the force’s child exploitation and safeguarding lead, said: “Any child, boy or girl, from any culture of background can be targeted by criminals so it is important we all look out for the children and young people in our lives.
“The force and partners are working extremely hard to not only deal with criminals who exploit children but we also want to be part of the fight against preventing it in the first place.
“The signs highlighted in the film are often some of the first indicators of concern and it is at this stage we want to act, before it becomes a bigger and potentially dangerous situation. We also know many children involved in this type of activity don’t see themselves as victims so the longer they are involved the harder it can be to intervene. Even so, it is important they are treated as victims and get the help and support they need.
“As a growing issue across the UK we also know this type of criminality is under reported so we hope this resource will encourage people to be more vigilant and report information to the police. Any details you have could be the missing part of the jigsaw we need.”
The film has been funded by LLR’s Violence Reduction Network (VRN) – part of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
Lord Willy Bach, Police and Crime Commissioner, added: “I’m really proud that the VRN and my own Office have been able to support the making of this film. It is illuminating and superbly produced. It is absolutely critical that we do everything we can to protect and support those at risk of criminality and exploitation and I firmly believe that the film goes a long way in raising awareness and encouraging those affected to report their experiences.”
Created by the production company Affixxius, it is the third in a series of films made by the Loughborough-based firm to help protect children. The previous two, Kayleigh’s Love Story and Breck’s Last Game, both focused on the issue of grooming.
Anyone who has information should call police on 101 or report their concerns online. For more information visit www.leics.police.uk/areyoulistening.
Media Enquiries: Sallie Blair - 01283 821012 / 07702 541401