Police chief calls for authorities to unite to tackle ‘explosion of exploitation’

Society will be “damaged beyond repair” if authorities do not work together to stem the “explosion of exploitation” threatening the vulnerable, a police chief said.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey (pictured) urged agencies to connect the various “silos” of exploitation, such as child sexual abuse, trafficking and modern slavery, rather than simply “firefighting the latest threat”.

He is calling for a fundamental change to how the Government, charities and other organisations work together to protect those most vulnerable – “largely the same group of at-risk young people”.

Mr Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for child protection and abuse investigation, said: “It is my belief that exploitation in all its awful manifestations is the greatest challenge the police service, the public sector and society faces today.

“The damage caused to individuals, families and society is incalculable.

“And unless we stem this explosion of exploitation we will become so overwhelmed, I fear that the fabric of society will itself be damaged beyond repair.”

He was speaking at the inaugural tackling exploitation conference in Birmingham, which sees experts from the police, charities, and the education and health sectors come together to explore how best to tackle the threat.

Calling for a more holistic approach, Mr Bailey said it is “too easy to place the responsibility of tackling these problems at the door of the police service alone”.

He said police tend to be good at identifying problems but need to “stop inventing new, unproven initiatives to tackle the issues of the day”.

He also warned against pigeon-holing victims as those seeking to abuse “don’t apply a label or badge”, while technological developments have broken down social barriers meaning everyone is “fair game” online.

He said: “Serious and organised crime is not the sole responsibility of law enforcement.

“It impacts every single person here, from public health authorities that need to provide life-long support to victims, to charities who are seeing greater demand for their services as public finances are reduced, to education providers who need to build resilience in young people to prevent them becoming victims.”

Rob Jones, director of threat leadership at the National Crime Agency, who also spoke at the conference, added: “It really concerns me that we’ve got what looks like a cottage industry when we should have a national enterprise.”

Mr Bailey also said he is “really concerned” about colleagues being increasingly exposed to potentially traumatising situations, such as illegal images as they work to protect children online.

He said a growing number of police staff are developing secondary traumatic stress.

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