Police are visiting hotels and B&Bs in Aylesbury to warn them that criminals could be sexually abusing children in their rooms.
From 2012 to date, there have been 237 case referrals of potential child sexual exploitation in the county, which Aylesbury Vale local policing area commander Supt Olly Wright has billed as a ‘sufficient cause for concern’.
Supt Wright said: “In a sizeable town like Aylesbury, this sort of crime is going to be going on in varying degrees.
“The message I would like to send out to the public is one of reassurance. We have never had so many resources put into this area and there has been a lot of investment with the setting up of the multi-agency safeguarding hub.”
He confirmed that there are a number of ongoing investigations into reports of potential child sexualexploitation, some in their very early stages.
As part of Operation Articulate, 11 people have been charged with crimes related to child sexual exploitation and remanded in custody. They are due to appear at the Old Bailey in London on May 18 next year.
There are two confirmed victims – now adults – that have come forward to speak about the historic crimes.
Supt Wright said that there is now more ‘force-wide awareness’ on recognising the signs of a child who could be sexually exploitation.
Neighbourhood officers have visited local hotels and B&Bs to educate staff and owners on signs of the potential abuse which could be happening under their rooves.
Other prevention work includes topical play ‘Chelsea’s Choice’ which alerts young people to what sexual exploitation is and how to deal with it.
Supt Wright said: “As a result, we are definitely getting more intelligence on potential child sexual exploitation cases.”
He stressed that there was now a ‘window of opportunity’ for people to come forward if they are concerned about a friend or family, or indeed victims themselves.
He said: “We need people to come forward so we can act on it. We will not leave any stone unturned.”
Also at the press conference was new children’s boss at the county council, David Johnston, who has been in the post just 23 days.
He took the reigns from Sue Imbriano at the start of the month and is using his 33 years of experience in the sector to turn the floundering department around.
Bucks County Council will work in partnership with Thames Valley Police, the Bucks Safeguarding Childrens Board’s RU Wise 2 It? campaign, children’s charity Barnardo’s and local NHS clinical commissioning groups to tackle child sexual exploitation in the county.
Mr Johnston said: “The problem is, many victims do not realise they are victims. It takes time for the police to build the confidence of the victim – it’s not the same as reporting a burglary, that’s why we need specialists to unpick these cases.”
Common behaviour in children that are potentially being sexually exploited is having an older boyfriend or girlfriend, staying out all night, skipping school, drug and alcohol use, chatting to people online, using their mobile phone more, being secretive or clingy, going missing, coming home with a new mobile phones, clothes and jewellery and staying out overnight.
If you believe a child may be being sexually exploited, visit www.ruwise2it.co.uk for more.
Alternatively, you can contact the police on non-emergency number 101 or call Childine on 0800 11 11.