A major campaign to fight child sexual exploitation on Teesside has been launched today (Tuesday, July 15).
The ‘Say Something if you See Something’ campaign aims to educate thousands of hospitality sector workers across the region on the tell-tale signs of abuse.
Those initially targeted to be given advice and guidance on identifying and reporting issues will be those working in the hotel and B&B industry, the taxi trade and takeaway workers.
Already nearly 3,000 businesses and taxi licence holders across the region have been written to in respect of the campaign.
‘Say Something if you See Something’ 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.
All four Boards are working together to support and promote the campaign.
Mark Braithwaite, Independent Chair to the Middlesbrough 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.
“What we are asking them to do is to be able to recognise what might be suspicious or of concern and to know what to do about it and who to contact – and that is Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.”
One of the first local businesses to back the scheme Redcar-based J&P Taxis which has more than 150 drivers working from Redcar, Guisborough, Skelton and Middlesbrough.
“All of our drivers are already aware of procedures regarding safeguarding of children and vulnerable people as they have undergone awareness training provided by the local authority,” said J&P owner Craig Walker.
“As a result we know the importance of keeping an eye out for the tell-tale signs and the part we can play in combatting potential abuse by reporting suspicious behaviour.
“We are keen to give our support and all drivers will be made aware of what the Say Something if you See Something campaign is all about.”
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.
“Investigating CSE, identifying perpetrators and supporting victims remains a day to day activity for the force and its partners.
“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.”