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Public urged to join campaign to protect vulnerable children and young people in Hull

A girl in her early teens boards your train at Brough station. It’s 11am on a week day during term time. She’s on her own and isn’t in school uniform. 
A young boy is hanging around Paragon Interchange late at night. An elderly man approaches him and hands him alcohol, cigarettes and a mobile phone. 
What do you do?
We understand it can be difficult to speak out but we’re urging passengers and the public to look up from their papers, phones and tablets to see if there’s a child who might need help. 
The call is part of a campaign by British Transport Police and Humberside Police working in partnership with Hull City Council, Corner House, and Not in Our Community who are working together to raise awareness about child sexual exploitation and identify children at risk.
We find that the bus and rail networks are often used by young people who may be vulnerable to this type of crime. 
During the next few days officers will be taking the opportunity to educate young people in stations with information about the signs and risks, in the hope that this will arm them with the knowledge to protect themselves from being susceptible to the risk of grooming.
Officers will be at the station and on trains throughout the region to speak to young people about the dangers of child sexual exploitation and explaining what they should do if they have concerns for themselves or a friend. 
In a bid to increase reporting around vulnerable children on transport networks, officers and rail and station staff have been giving a series of inputs – developed with the charity Railway Children –to spot the signs and make them aware of what they can do if they are worried about a vulnerable child.
Detective Inspector Mick Dawes from British Transport Police said: “All reports of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) will be taken seriously and dealt with sensitively.
“Protecting vulnerable children is at the heart of the way we police. It’s an incredibly complex task in the modern world with a number of threats to children, some old, such as being drawn into violence and crime, and some new with the onset of modern technology such as being groomed or exploited online.
“Young people often gravitate towards train stations and transport hubs because they are busy, anonymous places which help them escape their current situation or meet someone they shouldn’t. 
“There is no information to suggest abuse or exploitation is taking place specifically at stations in the Humberside area. But when children do come to our attention, it can be a sign that something is going on elsewhere and we will work with other agencies to help and support them and put their needs first. 
“We also want to reassure these young people that we are here to listen if they have concerns or any questions. Any young person can become a victim of CSE and no one will be judged or blamed for anything that has happened. 
“The victim is never at fault and our specialist officers will always be sensitive to the needs and wishes of the young person concerned. 
“We are asking passengers and staff to be aware of young people who might need help and to spot children who should be at school or who are out late at night.
“They may be travelling on their own, appear upset or with someone older than them who does not appear to be a relative.
“We all have a responsibility to protect vulnerable children in our community and I would encourage people to be on the lookout for young people who might need help and report any concerns they may have so we can make sure they don’t come to any harm.
“Even if your report turns out to be nothing, that’s ok. We would rather look into all reports than not be told because someone is worried that they have been mistaken.”
DCI Sharon Wood of Humberside Police  said: “Child sexual exploitation is an incredibly complex issue that affects the most vulnerable people within our community. For this reason it is a priority for the force, not only to identify and support victims, but also to bringing those responsible for abusing them to justice. 

“The week of action at Paragon Interchange with the British Transport Police and other local agencies gives us a great platform to raise awareness in issues surrounding child sexual exploitation, whether it is the subtle warning signs of exploitation including grooming through the internet, recording of invaluable local intelligence about suspicious activity or even supporting those affected by abuse. 

“The key message to the wider community is to report anything they think looks suspicious or out of place. This could be adults appearing to have inappropriate relationships with a child, adults regularly being in the company of children or being visited by them at home or even drivers pulling over to speaking to children. In these scenarios your call could be vital, so please call 101 – you could prevent a child being exploited.”

Media invite
The campaign is being launched at Hull Paragon Station on Wednesday 15 March at 2pm and media are invited to attend to take photos. DI Mick Dawes from BTP will be available for interview.

Representatives from local projects including the Cornerhouse, a drop in centre for young people, will also be at the launch. 
 
For more information about child sexual exploitation please visit http://www.humberside.police.uk/issues/child-sexual-exploitation-cse 
To speak to a specialist officers call 101, but if a crime is in progress or there is a danger to life always call 999.

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