How we're protecting vulnerable children and young people using our transport network
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If you saw a child travelling alone on a train late at night or looking frightened in the company of an adult on a bus, would you report it to anyone?
The county’s rail and bus network could be used by offenders to traffic young people for the purpose of sexual and criminal exploitation, so our officers and partner organisations have been visiting train and bus stations to identify and safeguard vulnerable children and raise awareness of the signs of exploitation.
The latest Operation Henderson day of action saw activity at more than twenty transport hubs right across the county. Officers spoke to scores of commuters and handed out leaflets to railway workers, bus drivers and taxi drivers featuring QR codes where they can report incidents.
Operation Henderson is a joint initiative being run by the Essex Safeguarding Children Board, Southend Safeguarding Children Partnership and Thurrock Safeguarding Children Partnership, British Transport Police, Essex Police, the Violence and Vulnerability Unit, Greater Anglia, c2c, TfL, the Railway Children, the Children’s Society, Social Care and local councils.
Detective Chief Inspector Dan Morrissey is the force lead for child sexual exploitation. He said that raising awareness of the issue is vital and that if people have concerns about children or young people, they need to report it straight away.
“Children exploitation is a horrendous crime and the impact that it has on victims can last a lifetime.
“It’s not uncommon to see children travelling on their own on public transport but this makes them potentially vulnerable to people who want to exploit them for criminal or sexual purposes.
“We are working with our partners to make everyone who uses or works on the transport network aware of the signs of exploitation.
“We urge anyone who sees something that concerns them or makes them suspicious to report it to us. Trust your instinct, tell us and we can take action. One phone call could make the difference and help safeguard a child.”
Other signs of potential exploitation include children appearing under the influence of drugs or alcohol; seeming unfamiliar with their surroundings; signs of injury, malnourishment or an unkempt appearance; travelling during school hours: being with an older person who’s giving them money or buying tickets for them; deliberately avoiding authority figures such as station staff or police officers.