April 23 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Children are being bribed with money, drugs, alcohol and expensive gifts in exchange for sex in Redbridge.
"A lot of the kids don’t know what’s happening. They think their relationship is normal or that they’re in control."
A partnership between police, Redbridge Council and other agencies has been set up to prevent and investigate the horrific exploitation.
The youngest victim the group has dealt with so far was just 12 years old.
The Redbridge Multi-Agency Sexual Exploitation group (MASE) has handled 15 cases involving children and teenagers aged between 12 and 17.
It is one of the first panels of its kind in London and started six months ago.
Catherine Worboyes, the council’s head of child protection, said: “Often they are young girls in very exploitative relationships.
“Sometimes they are passed from person to person and it’s not always easy to see what’s going on.”
Det Ch Insp Neil Lemon said many victims do not report abuse because they do not understand they are being exploited.
He added: “A lot of the kids don’t know what’s happening.
“They think their relationship is normal or that they’re in control.”
Police, social workers and teachers are being trained how to spot signs of grooming and abuse.
Changes in behaviour can include skipping school, going missing from home or care, getting into trouble with police and changing to an older friendship group.
Victims may also start using alcohol and drugs, or coming home with expensive presents they would not be able to afford, like clothes and mobile phones.
Working with schools and social services, an early intervention service has been established to protect children at risk and support police investigations.
The cause of a huge fire in a shed that spread to a house and garage in Redbridge is under investigation.