A POLICE campaign to rid Barnsley of child sexual exploitation cases - formed with the help of survivors - is set to be rolled out after a report admitted low levels of prosecutions need to be increased.
South Yorkshire Police previously revealed that the district had ‘limited capacity’ to conduct proactive work to disrupt offenders, but a police report last year said it was hoped a ‘detailed review’ into how cases are handled will result in changes being made.
Barnsley now has a bi-weekly meeting with officers from the force’s child exploitation tactical group, but plans are in place to increase the provision even more due to initial success in reducing cases.
Latest figures reveal 45 fewer cases were recorded in 2022 than the year before, but 61 per cent had an online element, leading South Yorkshire Police to launch its awareness campaign.
A report, compiled by Assistant Chief Constable Sarah Poolman - who used to lead Barnsley’s officers - said: “The meeting is where police and partners attend to review all new and ongoing intelligence submissions, with a view to identifying and understanding the risks and concerns, along with any safeguarding, evidential or disruption opportunities.
“Partners who attend include children’s social care, health, youth offending services, local authority teams, housing, licensing and antisocial behaviour officers.
“Missing children deemed to be at risk of exploitation are also considered during this process.
“Information is shared and actions and plans are identified to mitigate or eliminate risks or create further intelligence development avenues.
“Due to the relatively low prosecution rates for offenders, the prospect of obtaining sexual harm prevention orders on conviction is therefore impacted.
“This is a national issue, not just bespoke to South Yorkshire Police.”
Despite the higher proportion of cases being online, the Chronicle can reveal that police bosses are also working alongside local hotels, restaurants and taxi firms in a bid to increase awareness of what staff can look out for if they believe a youngster is being exploited.
“Spotting the signs, using professional curiosity and effectively responding to all reports of child exploitation will be the focus of the internal campaign, as well as promoting the submission of intelligence for police and partners,” Ms Poolman’s report said.
“The new campaign has been developed in consultation with survivors.
“It will have the primary aim of continuing to raise awareness of child
exploitation, whilst providing the public and professionals with the right
information for them to become more confident in identifying and reporting concerns or incidents.
“Due to the nature of offending, in that it mostly takes place behind closed bedroom doors and out of the sight of parents or carers, this will inevitably be vastly under-reported.
“Online offending is an intelligence gap for the police and requires officers to be professionally curious when engaging with children.
“This is a national issue, and the Home Office are fully aware of the challenges.”