West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner took time yesterday (5 November) to be interviewed by Social Breakfast Champion Vibhaa Dhanda about street harassment issues for young people.

“Harassment” is an offence under the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act.  The offence includes “alarming the person or causing the person distress”.

As the Commissioner described in the interview, police officers can and will respond to street harassment: They will make arrests and act to protect children.

Experiences in Rochdale and Rotherham show that on street grooming is part of the wider problem of child sexual exploitation (which also includes familial abuse, on line grooming and coercive relationships).  The recent report from Manchester on Child Sexual Exploitation also highlights the extent to which young people are harassed on the street and the risk that this becomes a norm in some areas.

The public and communities need to challenge this behavior.  Simply, if people see street harassment they should call the police.

Police are receiving training as part of Operation Sentinel to help them recognise and respond to street harassment and conspiracy to commit sexual offences.
Children and young people need to know that street harassment is illegal and they shouldn’t have to put up with it.  They should also be aware that some people who harass people on the street are potential sex offenders who are looking to commit further crimes.

West Midlands Police is making a huge investment in protecting people from sexual offences and “hidden crimes”.  The number of officers assigned to this work has risen from just over 300 to nearly 800.  They are making responding to hidden crimes a mainstream part of business.

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