A hard-hitting new film has been made as police step up efforts to prevent children across Harborough and throughout Leicestershire being exploited by criminals.
The powerful three-minute production, funded by the Violence Reduction Network (VRN), was launched on Wednesday November 3.
It’s being produced with police and partners in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR) in a bid to highlight awareness of a fast-growing menace in the UK – Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE).
This issue includes notorious County Lines drugs gangs.
Youngsters are being repeatedly targeted by an individual or criminal gang and manipulated or forced into committing crimes.
The film is urging people to know the signs and act immediately if they have information or concerns.
The call to arms is specifically aimed at adults in a position of being trusted and respected by a child or young person.
Grace Strong, strategic director of the Violence Reduction Network, said it was vital that adults who are in this position recognise the signs of child exploitation.
“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,” said Grace.
“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.
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.
The most common type of crimes children are being used for are the selling and holding of drugs.
They are often caught up in dangerous County Lines drugs gangs as well as carrying and storing money and weapons and committing thefts, burglaries and robberies.
Police, social care workers and health staff work together in Leicestershire in a multi-agency safeguarding hub working with children and their families at risk of both criminal and sexual exploitation.
This year professionals have already worked with at least 178 children, as young as nine, feared to be at risk.
Det Ch Insp Gavin Drummond, Leicestershire Police’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.”
He added: “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 the Violence Reduction Network.
That’s part of the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner Lord Willy Bach.
Lord Bach said: “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.
“I firmly believe that the film goes a long way in raising awareness and encouraging those affected to report their experiences.”
Created by 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
You can also watch this thought-provoking film on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/S_Ny_aOWI-k and on the Leicestershire Police website at: https://www.leics.police.uk/news/leicestershire/news/2020/november/new-film-highlights-the-need-to-tackle-the-exploitation-of-children/