HELP STOP CHILD EXPLOITATION
Police in Chiltern and South Bucks are ‘absolutely committed’ to preventing child sexual exploitation in the area. LAURA MOWAT talks to area commander Supt Steve Hockin and Chiltern Community Safety Partnership’s senior community safety officer Katie Galv
TOP policeman has said child sexual exploitation is an issue in ‘leafy’ Bucks and is calling on the public to help police catch those responsible.
Area commander for Chiltern and South Bucks, Supt Steve Hockin, has said tackling child sexual exploitation is a priority and he is calling on readers to report their suspicions to the police.
Child sexual exploitation is when a young person under 18 receives something such as accommodation, food, drugs, alcohol, gifts, money or affection in exchange for engaging in sexual activities.
While child sexual exploitation has received a lot of national media coverage in light of cases such as that of Jimmy Savile, the child sexual exploitation ring in Rochdale and Oldham and the gang from Oxford who were jailed for sexually exploiting underage girls, Supt Hockin said it is also happening on our doorstep.
In October, Lee Wakelin, 32, of Upper George Street, Chesham, and Arslan Khan, 21, of Severalls Avenue, Chesham, were sentenced to a combined total of 15 years in prison for child sexual exploitation charges, which included luring a 15-year-old girl into prostitution.
Supt Hockin said: “I think it’s wrong to believe child sexual exploitation happens in big cities and is organised by groups of men.
“It’s something that happens in all communities.
“Sadly it’s also happening in Chiltern and South Bucks and the message is especially important because people might believe because they live in a nice leafy part of the world it’s not happening here, but it can happen and it does happen here.
“The police are doing a lot of work to look after the victims and stop it from happening here, but we can only do that if we have the help and support of the victims and the public. The message is to report it – you will be believed and it will be investigated.
“I feel quite passionate about this and I think I speak on behalf of my colleagues when I say we’re absolutely committed to preventing this type of crime and we will focus on making life extremely unpleasant and difficult for those people who commit this type of offence.
“These offenders are predators who know what they’re doing and they’re manipulating and exploiting vulnerable young people.
“The victims are not the ones to blame, it’s about the offender who will continue to commit this type of crime. We’ve had some success in recent months and we want that to continue.
“The message is clear, if you think it’s happening, tell us. If you’re a victim, talk to people, and if you’re an offender, watch out.”
Supt Hockin stressed child sexual exploitation is never the victim’s fault, that it happens to boys and young men as well as girls and young women and that it is not an offence committed by any one group of people, but by people in all communities.
While Supt Hockin said that while this offence is being committed all over Chiltern and South Bucks, he said Chesham is an area of concern.
He added: “It’s always a challenge because we can only work with what’s reported, but we’ve had a number of cases in Chesham which have been reported to us and followed up.
“Chesham is an area of concern and we’ve been active there, particularly around disrupting the flow of drugs, because we believe some offenders use drugs, particularly cannabis, as a lure for young people in Chesham.
“However, it would be naive to believe this is not happening elsewhere and that’s why we need a really clear picture by getting people to report their suspicions to us.”
Chiltern District Council is also working to tackle the problem.
The council’s senior community safety officer Katie Galvin is urging parents to look out for signs of child sexual exploitation, such as their children becoming withdrawn, unexplained money or gifts or talk of a new older boyfriend or girlfriend.
She added: “There are some specific signs to look out for that at the same time could be put down to being a hormonal teenager.
“When you hear of child sexual exploitation you hear of how it ends, but you don’t hear how it started. If parents look out for these signs it’ll be really helpful.
“If people are aware of any signs then please report it.”
People can report child sexual exploitation by calling 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
CRACKDOWN: Supt Steve Hockin (inset) has said tackling child sexual exploitation is a priority for police in the area