Issued on 11/7/18 at 2:50 p.m.
With summer holidays fast approaching, Leicestershire Police are reminding parents and carers to ensure they have full knowledge of the whereabouts of their children.
Following a small number of incidents involving missing children of various ages in recent weeks, the Force wants parents and carers to be aware of the risks young people can face, in particular exposure to gangs and child sexual exploitation (CSE).
One of the most frequent indicators of child exploitation is going missing. It is therefore important that children are reported to the police every time they do, even if it is occurring on a daily basis.
Detective Inspector Jennifer Heggs from the force’s multi-agency CSE team (MaCSE) said: “Parents and carers must be vigilant and if their child does start to go missing for the odd night here or there, find out what's happening. This is particularly important with the long summer holidays approaching.
“It is crucial parents are aware of the signs a child could be at risk of CSE or gang association and that this is shared with friends and family - the more people who understand this danger, the better they are able to protect children.”
Over time, grooming changes a child's behaviour. The problem is that these changes can look a lot like typical teenage behaviour. Pace (Parents Against Child Exploitation) suggests getting advice if your child exhibits three or more of the following warning signs:
- Becomes especially secretive/ stops seeing their usual friends/ has really sharp, severe mood swings.
- Develops relationships with older men and/or women (although not all perpetrators are older).
- Goes missing from home and is reluctant to say where they have been or what they have been doing.
- Stays out all night.
- Receives calls and messages from outside their normal circle of friends.
- Has new, expensive items that they couldn't afford, such as mobile phones, iPods or jewellery - as well as 'invisible' or 'virtual' gifts such as phone credit and online gaming credits.
- Suddenly changes their taste in dress or music.
- Looks tired or unwell and sleeps at unusual hours.
- Has marks or scars on their body, which they try to hide.
- Starts using a different 'street language' or name.
- Specific dress style
- Associating with new groups of people, but giving little information about them
- Poor behaviour
- Talking differently – new slang or language with an aggressive tone
- Poor school results or skipping school
- Carrying weapons
- Unexplained injuries or sums of money/possessions
- Staying out unusually late, or not returning
- Graffiti style tags on possessions
- Interest in music which glorifies weapons/gang culture
At least half of all CSE happens online – follow this guidance to help keep children safe from online abuse:
From the social networks and apps children use to setting parental controls and guarding against online abuse, these websites offer useful advice and help for all ages:
Anyone who has concerns about the safety of a young person should call Leicestershire Police on 101. If a child is in immediate danger, always call 999.