A MAJOR campaign to fight child sexual exploitation in Hartlepool and throughout Teesside has been launched.
The Say Something if you See Something campaign aims to educate hospitality sector workers on the tell-tale signs of abuse.
Those initially being targeted with advice and guidance on identifying and reporting issues work in the hotel and B&B industry, the taxi trade and takeaway workers.
Already almost 1,000 businesses and taxi licence holders in Hartlepool have been written to as part of the campaign.
It is being led by the Tees LSCB’s Strategic VEMT (Vulnerable, Exploited, Missing and Trafficked) group which is made up from members of the Local Safeguarding Children Boards for Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hartlepool and Redcar & Cleveland.
Dave Pickard, independent chair of the Hartlepool Local Safeguarding Children Board, said: “Child sexual exploitation is abuse, it’s abhorrent and it’s a criminal offence.
“As agencies, we only know about the number of cases reported to us, that’s why it is important that we continuously try to raise awareness to educate and encourage people to report matters if they suspect grooming and exploitation might be happening in their workplace environment.
“The campaign aims to provide information as to what to look out for and to give people the confidence to do what the slogan says – to ‘Say Something if they See Something’.
“We are focussing awareness raising on the hospitality sector – with taxi drivers, hotels, B&B’s and takeaways – these are some of the places that evidence tells us that grooming and exploitation might take place and it is important that front line workers are vigilant and know what to look for.”
Detective Sergeant Rob Donaghy of Cleveland Police said: “Protecting children - and in particular preventing child sexual exploitation (CSE) – is recognised as a priority for Cleveland Police.
“Cleveland Police would appeal to anyone who has information or is concerned about potential child exploitation to report their concerns. The police will thoroughly investigate allegations of child abuse whether recent incidents or historic reports.”
l Anyone aware of or suspicious of any child sexual abuse should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.