12:30PM, Thursday 15 January 2015
Parents are being urged to watch out for youngsters’ suspicious behaviour after police revealed they know of 13 Royal Borough children who are ‘at risk’ of being sexually exploited.
Windsor and Maidenhead Local Police Area commander Superintendent Kate Ford said on Monday that since autumn 2013 the force has found 38 children in the area it suspected as being ‘groomed’ for exploitation.
Thames Valley Police still has active concerns about 13 of those 38 borough children. Two suspected groomers have been arrested since autumn 2013 and three abduction notices served.
“Abduction notices can be quite useful legislation used to challenge individuals that we suspect as having contact with the person under 16, or if they’re in care under 18, who we suspect maybe grooming them,” said Supt Ford.
“We can use that legislation to stop the contact with support from the parent or carer.”
Supt Ford’s comments came on the same day that 19-year-old Lewis Daynes, from Grays in Essex, was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a 14-year-old boy he had met online.
Police say social media sites like Twitter and Facebook make children much more vulnerable, because predators can use it to start the grooming process.
“They’re able to contact someone who their parents won’t know, and can make contact with the click of a button,” Supt Ford said.
Her officers have also enforced a licensing intervention with one hotel where police suspect children were being groomed.
Police challenged the hotel over a licence breach and used this to conduct irregular, surprise visits.
This helped the police ensure there is less chance of exploitation happening.
Supt Ford said victims do not always realise they are being exploited, as they are under the impression that they are in a normal relationship with their abuser.
Parents are encouraged to look out for secretive behaviour, and to be suspicious when their children have expensive items which they could not normally afford.
Supt Ford added: “It would be very naive to say that just because we live in an affluent area we do not have a problem.
“We do have individuals who people will try and exploit, and we work closely with our partners and them to make sure that doesn’t happen. If you see it, tell somebody, if something doesn’t look right to you then it’s probably not.”