More than two children a week are identified as being at risk of abduction or sexual exploitation, figures released by Lancashire Police reveal.
Officers issued 140 child abduction notices to adults believed to be forming inappropriate relationships with youngsters in the county between March 2014 and April 2015
We have monthly meetings to discuss any young people that we believe to be at risk
The notices are issued when police believe a child is at risk due to their associations with an adult.
They set out the name of the child and state the adult has no permission to contact or communicate with the young person.
A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “The child abduction warning notice procedure is for the occasions when police become aware of children spending time with an adult who we believe could be harmful to them, for example when there is previous intelligence that suggests the adult has a sexual interest in children.
“Sometimes the children are reported missing by parents and keep being found by police at a particular adult’s address.
“It historically has been difficult to deter the children from spending time with the adult, especially when the adult gives the child lots of attention, freedom and presents.”
If the adult breaches the notice they can be arrested and charged with child abduction.
Information is collected from a number of sources including sexual health services for young people.
Kate Robson, SAFE Centre Manager at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Here at the SAFE Centre we work closely with our local safeguarding teams to share information and we have monthly meetings to discuss any young people that we believe to be at risk.
“We also have a child and young person advocate who works with young people to ensure that they are supported, and all of our clinical staff are trained so they know what signs to look out for and what action to take if they do have concerns for a child.
“Our priority is to care for and protect our patients and that is why sharing information is so important to ensure that a child does not slip through the net.
“An alert may be put on patients’ notes so if they attend the service again other staff can see there has been a concern.”
Police took action after notice ignored
In April 2015 Zoe Hickey, 26, of Eskham Close, Wesham, admitted six charges of child abduction and six counts of sexual activity with a child after grooming a teenage girl – despite having already been warned to stay away by the authorities.
Hickey had been served with an abduction notice in respect of the girl.
But she ignored the notice and met up with the girl after replying to a message over a social network.
When the girl told someone at her school what had happened, her mum was brought into school and the police were informed.
After a subsequent investigation and trial, Hickey was jailed for two years and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for a total of 10 years.
Judge Anthony Russell QC, sentencing, told Hickey: “I accept you were infatuated with her.
“You had been warned off very, very clearly.”