Exploitation battle

Police on the Fylde coast have launched a high profile campaign to combat child sexual exploitation.

The week of action comes as figures show 85 potential cases were referred to police in the region between January and March – almost one a day.

Police will be targeting known offenders living on the Fylde coast to ensure they are keeping out of trouble.

Insp Steve Bell, at Fleetwood police station, said: “We are doing some high profile visits focusing on areas where we may have some concern.

“We will be engaging with local schools, bringing them up to speed with the latest legislation, and we will be visiting known offenders.

“We will also be supporting vulnerable young people to make sure they are protected.”

Figures released by police show the force’s western division, which covers the Fylde coast, recorded 139 cases of child sexual exploitation between April 2013 and March 2014 – far more than anywhere else in the county. The incidents ranged from harassment to abduction and rape.

The programme will include visits to schools and care homes, where officers will explain the importance to children and adults of recognising the signs and risk factors involved in exploitation.

Police stressed any child, regardless of social or ethnic background, could become a victim and urged people who work with children to know how to spot the warning signs.

Det Supt Sue Cawley, head of the force’s Public Protection Unit said: “We are working hard to show we have learnt lessons from the past and that we are listening to victims, treating them with sensitivity and respect and that we do take their allegations seriously.

“We are determined to stop children being abused and exploited; to bring to justice to all those who commit such abhorrent crimes and to ensure that the public are confident to come forward when they require our help.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw added: “Here in Lancashire we have an excellent record when it comes to addressing the issue of CSE but, despite this, it remains a very real problem within our communities. It is not something we can afford to be complacent about.”