Taxi drivers across the West Midlands are supporting police and local authorities to tackle child sexual exploitation and help keep children safe.
As part of the regional See Me, Hear Me campaign, thousands of Hackney carriage and private hire drivers are being given information about child sexual exploitation (CSE), the warning signs to look out for and what to do if they are concerned about a child.
Postcards they can carry around with them saying ‘we need your eyes and ears’ highlight signs such as noticing strange behaviour in a child or seeing young people or groups of men being dropped off at certain locations.
The cards also provide details of who to contact if they have any concerns.
Stephen Rimmer, West Midlands lead for tackling CSE, said: “Nationally taxi drivers have been highlighted as a problem factor in relation to children and young people at risk of abuse and exploitation. However, local authorities and the police across the West Midlands want taxi drivers to be trained and supported in being part of the solution not the problem.
“They can spot predatory behaviour and vulnerability, and report concerns quickly and effectively. Just like hotels, taxis are a service industry on the frontline of this threat and must respond accordingly, armed with the right information and supported by police and local authority professionals.”
CSE is a crime that can affect any child, anytime, regardless of their social or ethnic background. It is child abuse and involves perpetrators grooming their victims in various ways, such as in person, via mobiles or online, to gain their trust before emotionally and sexually abusing them.
It can take place in many forms, whether through a seemingly consensual relationship, or a young person being forced to have sex in return for some kind of payment, such as drugs, money, gifts or even protection and affection.
Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of Birmingham City Council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “Our licensed drivers are in a position to act as our eyes and ears, to spot activity or behaviour that may be linked to child sexual exploitation , such as being asked to transport unaccompanied young people to licensed premises, young people with friends who are older or making journeys during school time.
“We are writing to all our licensed drivers with advice on how to report suspicious behaviour. It includes information on the national See Me, Hear Me campaign. We will be arranging to deliver bespoke training for drivers in the coming months.”
Nick Page, chief executive of Solihull Council and regional CSE lead, added: “Child sexual exploitation has been a hidden crime for far too long. It can affect any child, any time and can happen anywhere. Preventing it has to be everybody’s responsibility.
“In the latest phase of this campaign we are raising awareness of CSE among taxi drivers to give them the information and the confidence to recognise the signs so they can help keep vulnerable children safe.
“We must all work together to protect our children from this horrific abuse.”
The See Me, Hear Me campaign was launched in June 2014 by Dudley, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall, Coventry, Birmingham and Solihull Councils, along with West Midlands Police, to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.
Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a young person should call West Midlands Police on 101, speak in confidence to Barnardo’s on 0121 3595333 or in an emergency call 999.
Childline also have counsellors available online at www.childline.org.uk
People can find out more information about child sexual exploitation by visiting www.seeme-hearme.org.uk
Notes to editors
The See Me Hear Me campaign was launched in June 2014 and is ongoing across the region. There are targeted resources, such as information packs aimed at parents, schools and the children and young people themselves, which can be found at www.seeme-hearme.org.uk