In a challenging and informative evening, Keith Breeze, field intelligence officer with Northumbria Police, addressed more than 30 people at the second annual open meeting of Belford Mothers’ Union.
Taking as his theme Sexual Exploitation, he explored prostitution, human trafficking, online grooming of young people and other aspects of the topic. He praised the Mothers’ Union for its work in highlighting the premature sexualisation of children through advertising, referring to the recent Bailey Report that reinforces the need for children to be able to enjoy their childhood.
Provocative imagery and ads on TV are “normalising adult sexual behaviour,” he said “And the line between reality and virtuality is fading.”
Keith emphasised the need for responsible adults to help young people in managing their access to the internet and ensuring they know what to do if they feel compromised by contacts. The number of cases is radically increasing and Keith alone is on course for dealing with 200 cases this year.
The principle behind police intervention is, first, the safeguarding of children and then the apprehension of offenders. In the last year, nearly 400 networks were identified. And 85 per cent of people who made virtual contact with young people also made physical contact with them.
Branch leader, Sylvia Hickey said: “Given the pressure of work Keith is under, with vastly increasing numbers of referrals, we’re so very grateful he could spare the time to come along to speak to us. Much of the information was truly shocking. We all knew it went on, but some of the details were very new to us.
“We owe it to our children and grandchildren to keep them aware of what to do if they find themselves in difficulties. We thank Keith for the information he’s shared with us.”