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03 August 2022


The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in partnership with Hampshire County Council Children’s Services have launched a campaign aimed at parents to raise awareness of child exploitation and offer help on how to see the signs, what to do and where to get help.

Child exploitation is happening now in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight. The signs are subtle, which is why it is called a hidden harm.

Between July 2021 and June 2022, 2,933 children were reported to police as going missing.  Some of these children went missing on several occasions.

Children who go missing regularly maybe vulnerable to sexual or criminal exploitation.

Exploitation is when individuals or groups take advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child into doing what they want in exchange for something the child wants or needs. This is always to the benefit of the exploiter. This can include the child being coerced into having sex or committing crimes, like carrying and delivering cash or drugs for a gang.

People, normally older children and young adults, befriend a child and build trust with them to develop a relationship in order to get them to do what they want.

They may offer children money, drugs, gifts, protection, friendship, love or affection as a means of gaining their trust. They may also use physical violence and threats as a means of control once the relationship has been established.

This is often called Child Criminal Exploitation or Child Sexual Exploitation and involves grooming.

Children are at risk in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and it’s important for parents to see the warning signs.

Councillor Roz Chadd, Hampshire County Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, said: “This campaign has been launched to help parents understand the warning signs, because they are not always easy to see. While they may look like normal signs of a young person just growing up or gaining independence and new friends, they could be indicators that your child is at risk of exploitation.

“This is a digital campaign which aims to help parents keep their children safe and show those who are worried about their child, or who are seeing these signs, how to get help.”

Donna Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight said: “As Commissioner, I am working with the police and wider partners such as schools and social services to ensure they are doing everything they can to keep children safe, free from abuse and exploitation, and keep them out of the criminal justice system.

“I fund a wide range of services that ensure young people who are at risk, or are victims of abuse or exploitation, get the support they need and my office provides funding to youth based community projects that offer young people access to meaningful activities and help.

“Specifically, my office funds an initiative called One Eighty which provides children with a list of activities local in their area which they can get involved in. It was designed by the OPCC’s Youth Commission in 2019.

“Better outcomes for all children need a consistent approach to child safety which is why I am really pleased to be launching this campaign in partnership, and taking a child-centred approach to reducing harm on our streets.”

See the signs

  • Regularly going missing/coming home late
  • Increasingly secretive
  • Suddenly having an older boyfriend/girlfriend or friendship group
  • Sudden change in friendships
  • Returning home under the influence of drugs/alcohol
  • Unexplained injuries
  • STDs or pregnancy/terminations
  • Getting into trouble at school/in the community
  • Suddenly having expensive clothes, trainers, money and valuable items
  • Asking for money or an often, excessive need for money
  • Receiving a lot of texts/phone calls
  • Burner phones/multiple phones
  • Sudden interest in gang culture/drill music or other types of music you are not familiar with
  • Change in language – use of urban slang or phrases related to drug dealing
  • Carrying items linked to criminal activity like weapons, balaclavas, tools, stash bags or small weighing scales

What can I do?

  • Ask questions and listen without judgement. Children need to know they can talk without fear of their parents getting cross and upset
  • Pay attention to their behaviour. Many children cannot voice their worries but will show them in how they act
  • Know their friends. Question new friendships and be aware of any secrecy around these
  • If your child is picked up by someone in a car, make sure you know who they are and where they are going, and record as much detail as possible
  • If your child takes a journey on a train or bus on their own, check their ticket, know their route and their destination
  • Take an active interest in their online life by checking their phone and internet history
  • Use online security settings and talk about the sites they are visiting and why

Get help – visit our website to see the support available in your area Is your Child Safe? – Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner (

The campaign will run throughout the summer holidays.