Posted: 22 August 2018

Working with the police to protect young people

Last week, staff from our London hub joined Lewisham Police on early morning raids as part of the police's efforts to tackle crime and protect vulnerable people in the capital . 

We have been working side by side with the police to disrupt and protect children from exploitation. We were present at the raids to make sure that any child found in the operation had the chance to talk to someone who wasn’t a police officer, and so we could facilitate a robust safeguarding response. 

Our London Area Manager Rhiannon Sawyer explains more about how we work with the police. 

How we work with the police

We work alongside the police in many different ways – the service is a key partner in tackling child exploitation. Last year we worked in partnership on a nationwide year-long Child Sexual Abuse/Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention Programme.

Recently we have been working with officers from Metropolitan Police Service in Lewisham, who have led the way within London in developing responses to children, young people and adults affected by criminal exploitation and drug distribution.

We accompany police officers on raids and speak to any young people found in properties used by organised crime groups, listening in a non-judgemental manner and assuring them we are independent from police or social services.

Once the young person feels able to open up and tell us a bit more about what is happening to them, we can share information with the criminal justice system, leading to a more sensitive response.

Most of the young people we have spoken to in raids have previously been reported missing or are currently missing.

We work with the young person based on what they disclose to us. For example, a young person might be found in a trap house, but actually the biggest issue pushing them into going missing is that they don’t feel they can trust their children’s home staff due to breaches of confidentiality. We work to alleviate those push factors – which will in turn keep them safe from exploitation.

Helping young people engage with the police

We help to get good outcomes for young people by building good relationships with specialist police officers across the force. For example, if a young person discloses a rape or another offence against them we can support them through the process, ensuring they get the best possible response.

Our support is particularly important when young people are facing multiple vulnerabilities - they may have been trafficked, raped, targeted by an organised crime group, missing and also have offended themselves.

We help the police, social workers, Youth Offending Team and care staff to build a better picture of the young person’s vulnerabilities and how best to protect them.

Sometimes young people are scared of the police and we can help by walking them through the system.

We also help the police, social workers, Youth Offending Team and care staff to build a better picture of the young person’s vulnerabilities and how best to protect them. Where appropriate, we also press for the formal recognition of a young person as a victim of trafficking, using the National Referral Mechanism.

Next steps in tackling exploitation

Since going on raids, we have seen an increased number of referrals from local authorities for casework with young people.

Our national Disrupting Exploitation programme will see us working with police on activities such as:

  • Protecting young people in places and locations we know are risky for them
  • Being present on more police operations 
  • Training police officers to recognise the vulnerability of children and young people
  • Changing national and local police policy to better protect children who go missing and/or are victims of exploitation 
  • Engaging young people in delivering training to police forces
  • Enabling better trend and intel sharing across police forces


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Making a positive impact on young people's lives

Posted: 17 August 2018


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Our work with child victims of criminal exploitation

Posted: 29 January 2019


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Supporting trafficked young men and boys through trauma

Posted: 18 October 2018