A leading London charity has praised Croydon Council and its partners for a groundbreaking operation to tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE) that has protected victims and led to arrests.
Last year the Metropolitan Police and the council launched a prevention programme called Operation Raptor. Aimed particularly at protecting children who go missing or are at risk of being drawn into crime, the operation was also designed to tackle groomers and improve the quality of information-sharing.
Following an interim report on Operation Raptor’s progress, the partnership has so far:
• Identified and supported 33 of the most vulnerable children at risk of sexual exploitation in Croydon
• Gathered intelligence that has led to four arrests
• Strengthened its multi-agency panel to identify victims and gather intelligence
• Run awareness training on CSE for almost 800 council employees, hospital staff and local businesses such as hotels and taxi firms
• Started the country’s first link between a local authority and the helpline and text service run by charity Missing People
• Allocated £50,000 funding for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) to review the circumstances of every missing Croydon child
• Employed a team with funding from charity Railway Children to work with missing children, young men at risk of being sexually exploitative and people who work with children
Now Safer London, an independent London charity that supports young people affected by violence and crime, has praised the partnership’s approach ahead of CSE being the main topic at the ninth Croydon Congress at Fairfield Halls on 26 November.
Rebecca Cheshire, deputy chief executive of Safer London, said: “Croydon’s social services teams have been actively working with the local police, our Empower child sexual exploitation service and other key partner organisations to prevent the exploitation of children in the borough. This proactive partnership approach to safeguarding, including addressing child sexual exploitation linked with missing person reports, is an example of good practice.”
Councillor Alisa Flemming, cabinet member for children, young people and learning, said: “Child sexual exploitation is a devastating crime, and this council’s priority is working with partner organisations to make everyone more aware so we can better protect existing victims and prevent others from being affected in future.
“We’re taking a national lead with law enforcement and the voluntary sector on ever-closer working that allows us to piece together what is often a very complex picture so we can safeguard children sooner, and we are sharing this best practice at the Croydon Congress to tackle the threat of child sexual exploitation.”