Report reveals Stevenage is ‘at threat’ from child sexual exploitation

A report by Hertfordshire Constabulary shows Stevenage is 'at threat' of child sexual exploitation

A report by Hertfordshire Constabulary shows Stevenage is 'at threat' of child sexual exploitation - Credit: Archant

Stevenage has been branded the ‘main town of threat’ from child exploitation in Hertfordshire, according to a report.

The dossier compiled by the Herts police community safety intelligence cell is due to be discussed today after Stevenage was listed alongside Watford and Hemel Hempstead as ‘key towns’ in combatting child sexual exploitation.

Between April 1, 2013, and August 31, 2014, the police Halo team received 140 referrals across the county requiring further investigation to identify victims and offenders.

Among these, 12 were deemed to be high risk vulnerable adolescents identified as being subject to CSE, who were referred to the multi-agency Sexual Exploitation and Runaway Children panel.

Of these referrals 13 per cent were from Stevenage and eight per cent from North Herts.

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Hertsmere had the highest number of referrals at 16 per cent, and Welwyn Hatfield was a close second with 14 per cent.

But the report warned: “Currently the main town of threat is Stevenage, although this is known to link to victims in North Herts.”

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Since April last year, 13 offenders have been charged with 52 offences ranging from paying for the sexual services of children, child abduction and sexual activity with children.

The report said offenders were predominantly white British males, who had an average age of 30, although many are in their late teens.

Victims are mostly white British girls who have an average age of 15.

There is ‘little to no intelligence’ to suggest gangs are involved in any way.

These statistics all relate to crimes across Hertfordshire.

Phil Picton, chair of Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board, said: “Child Sexual Exploitation is an issue which affects towns and cities across the country.

“In Hertfordshire, Stevenage, Watford, Welwyn and Hatfield and Hemel Hempstead are our bigger towns and therefore understandably feature as key areas where cases may happen.

“Across the whole county, the board and its partners have worked hard over past years to encourage those who work with children to identify and refer cases when young people may be exploited for sex.

“It is important to note that these statistics relate to referrals only and whilst they are all fully investigated, some cases may result in no further action being taken because exploitation is not taking place.

“However, where children have been abused police will always work with partners to ensure offenders are brought to justice.

“I would also like to reassure everyone that there is currently no evidence of any kind of endemic, organised child sexual exploitation in Hertfordshire but we continue to remain vigilant and would ask the community to be our eyes and ears and report any concerns.”

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