University works with West Midlands Police to tackle ‘hidden crime’ in the city

Operation Sentinel is a joint partnership between West Midlands Police and community members, aimed at protecting vulnerable people in the city. It focuses on reducing child sexual exploitation (CSE), female genital mutilation, forced marriage, modern day slavery, child abuse and domestic violence.

On Wednesday, 10 December, a ‘Communities and Partners Engagement Day’ is being held with key agencies across the city to discuss ‘Sentinel’ crimes and discuss the best way to tackle them.

Steve Neville-Wu, Senior lecturer in Learning Disability Nursing and a Counselling Psychotherapist, has recently been working with West Midlands Police in Wolverhampton.

He has experience working with both vulnerable adults and children and is committed to working with external partners to reduce vulnerability.

Steve said: “The aim is to bring together partners from across the community to jointly identify and develop an action plan with regards to the continuous improvement in reducing vulnerabilities within the identified key areas.”

Sentinel saw an uplift in officers’ knowledge across the whole West Midlands with almost 1,000 inspectors and sergeants attending crucial ‘theatre-based’ learning taking each of them to the heart of the issue. Those that received the training described it as “harrowing" and “impactive". This year, the training is being expanded to cover all response officers who are the first foot in the door at incidents where these hidden crimes may be happening.

CSE is a form of child abuse where victims are given commodities such as food, money, drugs, alcohol, gifts or affection in exchange for sexual activity with the abuser. Vulnerable young people are often targeted by offenders who then use physical, financial or emotional power to sexually abuse them.

Widespread local and national media coverage of this issue continues following some recent high-profile cases. Sentinel will continue to run over the next three months covering seven key crime types - child abuse (including child sexual exploitation and female genital mutilation), rape and serious sexual offences, domestic abuse, honour-based violence, forced marriage, modern day slavery and prostitution.

Superintendent Keith Fraser, from Wolverhampton Police, said: "Child sexual exploitation affects all communities and it remains a top priority for us - nothing is more important in policing than protecting vulnerable people.

"Thanks to a lot of work carried out over the last year, we are in a much better position to tackle this issue. Through the engagement day, we hope to harness the knowledge, experience and opinions of our local communities and partners so we can drive forward Sentinel together.

"There is clearly more to do which includes continuing to raise awareness amongst the public and, just as importantly, our own staff to ensure we as a police force are in the best possible position to be able to identify and support victims."

A regional campaign − See Me Hear Me (www.seeme-hearme.org.uk) - launched in June this year and has seen all agencies responsible for tackling child sexual exploitation working to common standards of reporting and investigation.

For further information, advice and support visit this dedicated section of the West Midlands Police website: www.west-midlands.police.uk/childsexualexploitation

ENDS

For more information please contact Emma Pugh in the Media Relations Office on 01902 322736.

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