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31 July 2015, 07:08 | Updated: 31 July 2015, 07:10
New patrols start up in Portsmouth from this evening - in a UK first aimed at protecting youngsters from child exploitation.
The Guardian Angels - made up of police, social workers and a team from Barnardo's - will target areas of the city every other Friday night.
Identifying child sexual exploitation is a key priority for Hampshire Constabulary and Portsmouth City Council. Victims of this type of crime are some of the most vulnerable people in our communities; children and young adults who are being sexually, physically or psychologically abused and who often do not have the confidence or ability to speak up for themselves.
Hampshire Constabulary and agencies we work closely with are committed to raising awareness of child sexual exploitation and reducing victims. To do this we know we need to look at different ways to reach and gain the trust of people who may be victims, or come into contact with someone who is being exploited.
CSE Guardian Angel patrols are being piloted in Portsmouth as a way to reach people who may be affected. This is a first for police to be directly involved in this type of activity.
The patrols will consist of police officers, Barnardo's workers and council social workers joining forces to target areas of the city. The idea is to engage with people and pass on information about CSE.
Detective Chief Inspector Darren Rawlings said:
"We are looking a new and innovative ways to reach people in Hampshire who may be a victim of CSE or can help us stop it happening. The idea of CSE guardian angels is new and we are trialling it first in Portsmouth with our partner agencies to see if it works for us.
"The patrols will be highly visible and we hope to reach a large number of people during the evening. The main aim is to raise awareness of what exactly CSE is and provide advice where we can. Police officers will also be involved in the patrols so we can take reports where a criminal offence is disclosed.
"We know that speaking up about this type of activity can be really hard for those who are being exploited so we hope that making the first step will help. Our aim is to build up trust and be approachable, raising awareness of CSE so that less people become victims."
Cllr Neill Young, Portsmouth City Council's Cabinet Member for Children & Education, said:
"We do a lot of work to keep vulnerable children safe and angel patrols is now an extra tool we have at our disposal. I'm really pleased we've been able to make this part of our coordinated partnership response to protecting children from exploitation."
Barnardo's UK lead on CSE, Michelle Lee-Izu said:
"The aim of this joint initiative is to prevent vulnerable children and young people from being sexually exploited. Raising awareness about child sexual exploitation and understanding the warning signs is key to ending this horrific crime. Trialling CSE Guardian Angels with our partners in Portsmouth enables us to help protect young people at risk of this serious form of child abuse."
The patrols begin in the city tonight and will take place every two weeks. Support and advice is also available at http://www.hampshire.police.uk/internet/advice-and-information/abuse-against-the-person/child-sexual-exploitation-page and on Barnardo's website www.barnardos.org.uk