Friday 13th is the last day of The Children’s Society and the British Transport Police’s campaign to make the public LOOK CLOSER for young people being exploited in the East Midlands.
For the last week Lincoln had been running the campaign. Have you noticed? If you haven’t, you should #LookCloser.
Take a moment to take in your surroundings. Look at the people around you. Does anyone look out of place? Does anyone look lost, or uncomfortable? Are they a young person? Is there a chance that they are a victim of exploitation?
It is hard to know if someone is being exploited, especially if you have no training like the police or child officers. However, The Children’s Society, the British Transport Police and the East Midlands Special Operations Unit have put together a leaflet about what signs you should be on the lookout for and where.
Lucy Belcher, the senior manager at The Children’s Society, emphasised that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility; that although we aren’t trained for it, we should always be willing to help out other people.
If you notice a young person travelling alone, possibly in school uniform while in school hours, or late at night, are they being exploited? Do they look lost or anxious? Are they carrying a lot of cash? Do they have multiple train tickets? Are they surrounded by adults a lot older than them?
Lucy Belcher, and the campaign, stress that: “if something doesn’t feel right, it might not be.”
Try approaching the young person and asking if they are lost or if they need help. It might just be the best decision of their life.
This is a nationwide problem, any young person could be exploited or groomed, according to Lucy Belcher. There are no set rules, or stereotypes. Boys can be sexually exploited, it’s not just girls. It isn’t just young teenagers between 14 and 17, there are children as young as 7 being groomed.
It is a problem that needs facing, and Lucy Belcher said there is hope. The #LookCloser campaign has been successful as young people have been safeguarded as a result of us sharing these messages and the government and the police have been doing more and more to tackle child exploitation.
If you do see anything that doesn’t feel right while on a train home this weekend, you can contact Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111 or text British Transport police on 61016.
If you feel it is an emergency, call the police on 999, or 101.
Lucy Belcher details more of the signs of exploitation to be looking out for.