Beds police and crime commissioner green lights play to protect vulnerable youngsters from exploitation

PUBLISHED: 14:06 09 June 2018 | UPDATED: 10:00 13 June 2018

Beds police and commissioner Kathyrn Holloway (centre) and chief constable Jon Boutcher (second left) with the AlterEgo theatre company. Picture: Bedfordshire Police

Beds police and commissioner Kathyrn Holloway (centre) and chief constable Jon Boutcher (second left) with the AlterEgo theatre company. Picture: Bedfordshire Police

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The Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner has given the green light for a new hard-hitting drama to help protect vulnerable youngsters from child exploitation.

Theatre company AlterEgo at Bedfordshire Police’s annual Better4Bedfordshire training event. Picture: Bedfordshire Police.Theatre company AlterEgo at Bedfordshire Police’s annual Better4Bedfordshire training event. Picture: Bedfordshire Police.

Police and crime commissioner Kathryn Holloway is to pay for theatre company AlterEgo to produce a graphic drama that will be shown in more than 11 schools to highlight the dangers of grooming by gangs.

“There’s no way to sanitise what is going on,” said Mrs Holloway.

“Troubled teenagers are seen as an opportunity by adults or older teenagers who first offer acceptance, hospitality and shelter only to suggest that this is a debt that the victim needs to pay off financially, sexually or both.

“In Bedfordshire, as in other counties close to large urban areas such as London, gangs are exploiting young people to deal drugs and carry weapons on their behalf in operations known as ‘county lines’.”

Theatre company AlterEgo at Bedfordshire Police’s annual Better4Bedfordshire training event. Picture: Bedfordshire Police.Theatre company AlterEgo at Bedfordshire Police’s annual Better4Bedfordshire training event. Picture: Bedfordshire Police.

The production is based on the true story of a vulnerable boy who, following the death of his mother, is excluded from school and reported missing by his alcoholic father. He is picked up an older man before being blackmailed, drugged and sexually abused.

AlterEgo’s creative director Sean McGrath said: “The play was developed to raise awareness about the links between child sexual exploitation, homelessness, sofa serving and missing children.

“It also aims to highlight the behaviour which young people might exhibit if they are being exploited, behaviour that can too easily make them appear to be trouble makers when in fact it is a sign of their abuse.

“We would like to thank both Bedfordshire Police and commissioner Holloway for their support and help to develop the programme.”

Officers from the force were shown the production at the annual Better4Bedfordshire training events, which had a profound effect on constable Tom Phelan.

“As a frontline officer dealing with safeguarding day in day out, it can be easy to forget what genuine issues could be present behind the obvious,” he said.

“The play during Better4Bedfordshire had a huge impact on me.

“I know that I will now look at my regular dealings differently, making sure that I keep the true story, which the production was based on, in the back of my mind as this may well help in identifying people in need of genuine intervention.

“I am really grateful to the actors in their portrayal of the story.”

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