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Safeguarding children from CSE is everybody's business

Detective Sergeant Vicky Macleod has worked for Bedfordshire Police for almost 19 years and is currently based within the CSE and Missing Investigation Team (CMIT).

Her role involves investigating child sexual exploitation (CSE) cases, as well as working with partner agencies to safeguard children who are at risk of or who have become victims of CSE.

“I joined Bedfordshire Police in October 2000 and have worked within a number of units, but moved into the Child Sexual Exploitation Team around two years ago.

“We are a very specialist team which investigates incidents of CSE and also the link between CSE and young people who regularly go missing.

“CSE is a type of child abuse in which children are sexually exploited for money, power or status. A CSE case can include sexual offences, kidnap, torture, assault, and trafficking.

“Any child can be sexually exploited no matter what culture, ethnicity, religion, whether a boy or girl, from any background.

“Abusers can come from any background too and are not always older adults. Young people can also be victims of their peer group and it can happen within a family situation, or where someone has a position of authority and uses that position to exploit a victim.

“Investigating CSE can be challenging at times. Many young people don’t realise, or believe they are victims, or may be frightened of what may happen to them, especially if they have been coerced into sexual or criminal exploitation. Often they feel like they are in a real relationship and have complete trust in their abuser.  They don't understand, or want to face up to the fact, that they've been groomed and they’re being abused, and so are unwilling to talk about what has happened to them.

“This means that it can be quite difficult to investigate any offences, so we have to consider other options, such as using disruption tactics against the suspected predator. We gather intelligence on the groups of young people who are known to us, to help establish who they are with, what vehicles they may be getting into to help us identify who these perpetrators may be.

“We aim to disrupt any suspicious activity by issuing Letters of Concern or Child Abduction Warning Notices to stop someone from associating with a child, who we believe is at risk of CSE.

“There is a very strong link with children who go missing regularly and CSE. We had a great result recently when our Missing Investigation Officers identified an address where a lot of young girls who had been reported as missing were frequenting. We work alongside our partner agencies and Social Care to work out a strategy around how to safeguard these young people.

“We don’t just work with individuals. Our Operation Makesafe initiative was set up to educate the county’s hotels, bars, clubs, fast food outlets and taxi companies how to spot the signs of CSE, and know how to report it. We have successfully held training seminars two years in a row, and the information we get from these businesses really helps us build up a picture of what we need to focus on.  

“The more eyes and ears we have in the county watching out, the better. Safeguarding children from CSE is everyone’s business – it’s important to say something if you see something, even if you’re not sure. We will take all reports seriously and will investigate to keep Bedfordshire’s children and young people safe.”

For more information on CSE and how to spot the signs, visit

If you’re being exploited, or have concerns for someone else, you can call us on 101, or make a report via our online reporting centre.  In an emergency, call 999.


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