CHILDREN playing the popular Pokemon Go game are to be targeted as part of the It’s Not Okay campaign to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.
Approximately 85% of current child sexual exploitation (CSE) cases being investigated in Tameside by Greater Manchester Police involve online activity. Many of these cases also involve children travelling to meet their abuser.
As part of the of the Greater Manchester wide It’s Not Okay week of action from 31 October – 6 November, Tameside Phoenix – the multi-agency team to tackle CSE – will be visiting Pokemon Go gyms across the borough as a new and innovative means of reaching more young people with important safety messages.
The Pokemon Go game involves players travelling around collecting online characters on their mobile phones. Players tend to congregate at Pokemon “gyms” where they can collect more characters. But these locations can also be a honey trap where offenders can potentially target young people.
As well as visiting Pokemon Go gyms, the Phoenix team will be visiting a real-life gym at Active Tameside’s Ken Ward Centre, Hattersley, to talk to young gymnasts about staying safe online – and when playing Pokemon Go - while raising awareness of the It’s Not Okay campaign.
DS Dan Appleby, of Tameside Phoenix said: “This operation is about raising awareness among children and young people about staying safe when playing Pokemon Go and also when out and about locally, whether travelling to meet friends or simply going to school. Most of the child sexual exploitation cases we are currently investigating have an element of online activity as well as local travel or being encouraged to meet their abuser somewhere. Offenders know how to exploit online trends and encourage children to meet them so we need to be equally savvy and stay one step ahead.”
Tameside Council Executive Member for Children & Families Cllr Peter Robinson said: “We are constantly looking for new ways to engage young people and keep safety messages fresh and relevant – this operation aims achieves both these objectives and will hopefully leave a lasting impression on the young people we speak to.”
During the week of action the Phoenix team will also be visiting schools, train and bus stations and Ashton Moss leisure complex to raise awareness of CSE safety messages. Tameside taxi and cab drivers will also receive training in spotting the signs of CSE.
For more information on child sexual exploitation and online safety see www.itsnotokay.co.uk