Police are reminding parents and carers to make sure they always know the whereabouts of their children after two recent incidents involving missing teenagers. In the past week Northamptonshire Police have responded to information about two unrelated missing young people.
Urgent enquiries located both girls in the company of older men. As a result a 23-year-old man from Kettering and a 32-year old man from East Northamptonshire were arrested on suspicion of child sexual exploitation offences. Both have been released from custody pending further enquiries and safeguarding measures placed around the children.
One of the most frequent indicators of child sexual exploitation is a child going missing. It is therefore important that children are reported to the police every time they go missing, even if it is occurring on a daily basis.
Detective Chief Inspector Richard Tompkins of the Forces Public Protection Command, 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 - before it's too late. “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 if CSE 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.
At least half of all CSE happens online – follow this guidance to help keep children safe from online abuse:
Implement an internet curfew in your home and disconnect your router after a certain hour.
Insist that all mobile phones and tablets are placed in a locked safekeeping box between certain hours.
Make it clear that your child must not take their phone or any handheld device into the bathroom at any time.
Talk openly about the risks of social networking and make sure your child understands privacy settings and how virtual identities are not the same as real life. This is especially important in the context of gaming.
Make it clear that your child must tell you if an indecent photograph of them has been circulated on the internet.
Children who are blackmailed by intimate images quickly feel backed into a corner and are prevented from seeking help through shame and embarrassment.
Report the image immediately to CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) or the Internet Watch Foundation.