Lancashire Police has launched a week of activity aimed as raising awareness of child sexual exploitation.
The event will focus on children and young people from harder to reach communities and involves local authorities, schools, leisure centres, hotels, healthcare workers and charities.
Tomorrow a conference on child sexual exploitation will be held in Blackpool where a specialist team of officers is currently involved in a major investigation.
Detective Superintendent Andrew Webster, Head of Lancashire Constabulary’s Public Protection Unit and leader of the investigation into the disappearance of teenager Charlene Downes, said: “Listening to the ‘voice of the child’ is core business for Lancashire Police and our partners.
“In order to protect children and young people effectively we must understand the complexities and dynamics that many children face, particularly those with additional needs or from communities we have not yet reached.”
Young people will also attend their own conference hosted by Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw.
He said: “Keeping our young people safe from harm is a key priority for everyone in Lancashire and over the last two years the young people themselves have told us that they want us to be honest and open about the dangers they face.
“The more young people know the more likely they are able to protect themselves.”
“Grooming and exploitation survivors require specialist support and my Nest Lancashire service brings together a number of providers to work with young people offering support, advice and practical help.”
A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “Child sexual exploitation is child abuse. It is complex and can manifest itself in different ways but essentially it involves children and young people being coerced into performing sexual acts on their abuser or others.
“Often this may be in return for some kind of reward – for example, accommodation, drugs or other gifts but many are forced into sex out of fear.”
Between April 2015 and March 2016, Lancashire Constabulary received 1754 child sexual exploitation referrals and 630 crimes related to CSE were recorded.
The issue of child sexual exploitation in Blackpool has been brought into the spotlight by the investigation into the disappearance and murder of Charlene Downes, who vanished in November 2003.
Fresh images of the 14-year-old were released last week and the inquiry into her killing has been expanded to encompass sexual exploitation.
If you are concerned about a young person you know, call Lancashire Constabulary on 101.
In an emergency, always dial 999.