A campaign urging people to speak out if they fear a child is being sexually exploited has been re-launched in Hertfordshire.
The Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board teamed up with councils, businesses and other authorities for the Halo campaign – which was launched last November.
Anyone who suspects a child is being sexually exploited has been urged to raise the alarm with the authorities.
The fresh appeal comes on the same day Ofsted said local authorities’ plans were “under developed” and councils were slow in facing up to their responsibilities to protect children.
David Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, said: “We all have a responsibility in making sure that Herts is a safe place and that is particularly true when it comes to protecting children.
“Boys and girls from all backgrounds can be vulnerable to predatory adults or to groups that seek to exploit them.
“While we do not currently believe this is a widespread problem in the county, I am delighted to support this campaign because just one child victim in Hertfordshire is one too many.
“I would appeal to people to be vigilant and raise the alarm if they have any suspicions. Your report might be the one thing that helps a child find protection.”
Phil Picton, chair of the HSCB, said there had been a 50 percent increase in referrals to the Halo team since it was launched.
Each referral sparks an immediate investigation byHertfordshire Constabulary.
Assistant Chief Constable Michelle Dunn said: “Our joint work tackling child sexual exploitation is making a difference, but we must not be complacent.
“We need the help of our communities, including those in business, to ensure these predatory offenders are prevented from committing these crimes.”
There are a number of signs associated with child exploitation – including youngsters staying away from home, having significantly older friends and being given expensive gifts.
Other signs include self-harm, substance abuse, physical injuries and repeated sexually transmitted infections.
“We believe businesses, together with district councils, can play a positive role in preventing child sexual exploitation.
“We want to support them in protecting our young people and to be vigilant about what goes on in their own businesses.
“Everyone has the power to prevent child sexual exploitation. Our message is clear – if you see something, say something.”
Visit http://www.hertssafeguarding.org.uk for more information.