Category Archives: Peterborough

Supporting victims of hurricane Irma

PC Den Williams from Ely and PC Ross Beesley from Wisbech have just returned from the British Virgin Islands following the catastrophic damage caused by hurricane Irma feeling humbled by the three week experience…

“The world watched as hurricane Irma took hold of the Caribbean and travelled across the North Atlantic killing more than 120 people with winds of up to 185mph at the end of August.

News bulletins and social media sites were awash with images and videos showing the pure devastation hurricane Irma had left behind but nothing could prepare us for what we were about to witness.

We volunteered, along with more than 50 other officers from across the country, to offer mutual aid in the British Virgin Islands and flew out from RAF Brize Norton to Barbados on 9 September.

Words cannot describe the devastation. We saw it on the TV before we left but you are detached from the pictures and videos. It’s not until you are there that you can smell the sewage in the street, you avoid puddles not knowing if the power cable lying in it is live or not.

We saw 40ft containers that had been thrown around, homes without roofs and what was an island full of lush greenery turned into something like what you would see in a Hollywood movie.

Yet the people were still upbeat. Despite losing everything themselves they were committed to helping others. There was one woman in particular, Janet, who left her own teenage children to come to the aid of those in a children’s home.

With around 40 per cent of the islands police force unable to work because of the devastation caused to their own lives, the majority of our time was spent at banks to stop looting and robberies or at supermarkets and fuel stations to prevent panic buying.

The moment we landed and our presence was known, we were starting to make a difference. We were able to take some control and allow everyone to get on with try to rebuild what they had lost.

It wasn’t long after we arrived that we were put under a 24 hour curfew as hurricane Maria struck the islands.

Our efforts soon turned to offering reassurance to members of the public, giving people lifts from hospital and interacting with the families and children.

We were so touched by the community they were working with that we got in touch with the Police Federation and the Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite, and were able to secure a donation to purchase books, toys, pens and pencils for the children.

The best part of the trip was seeing the small difference we were making. Seeing the children’s faces when you presented them with small gifts, playing ball with them. You couldn’t put a price on it.

Being in 40C heat, wearing full body armour and not being able to wash above the neck because of the E.coli in the water was a low. We were living without the basics but we had a roof over our heads, were fed and watered which is more than most had out there.

One of the things we will take away from the experience was a line from a gentleman who had lost his home, his belongings, everything. He said; ‘I’ve got life and as long as I have that, I can rebuild everything else’.”

Snapchat’s Snap Maps – Are you at risk?

Snapchat is one of the most popular social media channels for 13 to 17-year-olds*. For those who don’t know, it’s an app that’s downloaded to a smartphone and is primarily used for sending photos or videos which automatically delete after up to 10 seconds.

More often than not users add their friends from their contact list or use the ‘nearby’ function to search for friends.

adding friends

Following a recent update to the app, users are now able to opt into a feature called ‘Snap Map’. This is a live map which shows the location of you, your friends and events in the area. It is designed to allow more engagement between friends. You can also see local events though a heat map collating ‘our story’ snaps. The app works in conjunction with BitMoji and you can design what your character will look like on the live map.

It’s an extremely accurate map, showing your location within 10 meters, providing the opportunity for anybody who is on your friend’s list to see almost exactly where you are.

snap map

The good news is that you can choose exactly who you want to share your location with and it’s not possible to share your location with someone who isn’t already your friend. When you first use the map function you’ll see that you are automatically set to Ghost Mode which means you can’t be seen.  There are two other options allowing you to show all friends your location or you can select specific friends.

Sharing any personal information online, including your location, should be treated with caution on any application.

We would advise parents and carers to discuss social media use with their children, monitor their use and keep up to date with new developments and applications.

While there are concerns that the type of information being shared could potentially be open to abuse, the risks can be significantly reduced by users adopting a responsible approach by assessing who they share their information with and activating the facility’s privacy settings and ‘Ghost Mode’ function in their accounts.

Ghost mode

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has lots of information about the many different social media applications including Snapchat.

If you have concerns about something that has happened online, you can make a report to one of CEOP’s Child Protection Advisors, alternatively call police on 101 or get in touch with Childline.

*Statistics from 2016 show that 23% of their users were aged 13-17, 37% were 18-24 and 26% 25-34.

Who’s hiding behind those messages?

The majority of people use social media to keep in contact with their friends and family but for some it can be used as a tool to groom children and young people.

Children no longer know life without the internet and are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to technology and the latest apps. However, the internet is also an easy place for men and women to make contact with young people by hiding behind screens.

What is online grooming?

Grooming is about building a relationship with a child to get something from them, like images or videos, to meet them in person and to later abuse them.

Online gaming, social media and chatrooms enable anyone the opportunity to try and make contact with a child.

Men, and women, from 18 onwards can create fake online identities and pretend to be children themselves to trick real children into chatting and sharing.

They’ll do their research before they make contact by looking at other things the child had posted and other social media sites they are on. They can then use the information to plan their conversation.

Those who want to groom children will use any sites or apps which are popular with young people. On social media they might send multiple friend requests at random in the hope that a young person will accept them.

In games and chatrooms they’ll try to start conversations with young people and then ask them to chat privately through a different app.

Don’t panic and ban your child from the internet or social media but it’s fair to assume that if a site or app is popular with young people then those with a sexual interest in children will try to use it to communicate with them. Ensure they are aware of the risks that come with speaking to anyone online.

While some people might persuade a child to meet face to face, it’s becoming increasingly common for children to be tricked or coerced into sexual activity on a webcam or into sending sexual images.

There isn’t one clear sign of online grooming but the following signs from ThinkuKnow could be an indication:

·        Have they suddenly become very secretive? People who abuse will try to stop young people telling their friends and family about the abusive relationship.

·        Are they sad or withdrawn but won’t say why? If something is going on with your child online it might be really upsetting them. They might feel trapped, like they can’t talk about it. Let them know you’re there to listen.

·        Do they seem distracted? We can all get caught up in ourselves if things are worrying us. If they seem unusually preoccupied it might be because things are weighing on them which they feel they can’t talk about.  

·        Do they have sudden mood swings? Mood swings are not uncommon in adolescence but they can be a sign that someone has built a relationship with your child which is affecting their moods. 

·        Are they unable to switch off from their phone or social media? Lots of us find it hard not to check our phone or the internet, but if your child gets particularly worried or stressed when they can’t, this can be a sign someone is controlling them.

If you are concerned about someone your child is in contact with, contact your local police, children’s social care department or report directly to CEOP.

If you want to discuss your concerns with someone call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000. If you believe your child is at immediate risk call 999.

Are you and your family oversharing?

Have you ever stopped to think about what you or your family are posting on social media? The instant nature of posting and sharing means it’s incredibly easy to give too much information away, be it personal information, opinions or private photos and videos.

Oversharing can have negative consequences, including providing personal details to undesirable people and damaging your online reputation.

Here are some top tips from Internet Matters.

Are your children sharing inappropriate selfies?

Discuss the reasons why they feel the need to share such images and the potential long-term impact this could have on them if the pictures are used without their consent.

Peer pressure and the desire for attention can be reasons why some children feel the need to share inappropriate photos with friends and people they meet online.

Did you know it is illegal for a child under 16 to share a naked image of themselves? Just as it is illegal for someone to be in possession of one.

Encourage young people to spend time with real friends without feeling the need to gain approval by getting ‘likes’ on a photo they’ve shared.

Do you feel they’re spending too much time on social media?

Agree some house rules on when and how long children can go online and which sites they should visit.

It’s a good idea to give your eyes at least 30 minutes rest from the screen before bed. Don’t forget that young people are often influenced by their parents so ensure you’ve put your phone or tablet away too.

Are they sharing their location through apps?

You can turn the geolocation off to ensure your child’s whereabouts is private. Explain why it’s important that they never share personal information with people they don’t know online and remind them you are there if someone is making them feel uncomfortable.

Be clear that they should never meet someone face to face without your consent or you present. You never know who could be hiding behind the screen.

Have they posted too much personal information?

Talk to your children about the potential risks of sharing personal content online such as grooming or cyberbullying.

Help them understand how to remove information that could pose a risk to them and ensure their accounts are private so their shared information can only be seen by people they know.

Are they chatting to strangers online?

Is your child aware that people can and do hide behind fake profiles for dishonest reasons and the person they’ve been chatting to could easily be someone with bad intentions.

Show them how to block unwanted friend requests or to report anything offensive.

Are they gaming with strangers online?

Playing games online can be fun and might seem harmless but ensure your children are aware that gaming can also be a platform for people to hide behind fake profiles.

Consider using parental controls to limit who they can play with online.

Do they have hundreds of followers?

Discuss what it means to be a friend or a follower online, the pros and cons of having lots of ‘friends’ online and the importance of knowing that they’re people you can trust.

Have they shared embarrassing images?

Almost everyone has a presence online today or their own personal digital footprint which will be with them for years to come.

Maintain a positive presence online by encouraging children to think before they share. Messages, pictures and videos, even sent ‘privately’ could end up in the wrong hands.

Set an example and never post anything that you wouldn’t want them to see.

Are they at risk of being cyberbullied?

Children who are being cyberbullied often find it difficult to talk about it so make sure they know they can talk to you without being judgemental or getting upset.

Do they understand what they share online can hurt others?

Talk about peer pressure and how screens and anonymity can lead to behaviour that is hurtful. There can be blurred lines between uploading and sharing content because it’s funny or might get lots of likes versus the potential to cause offence or hurt.

Have they been affected by content shared online?

Show them how to gently challenge their friends if they find their content offensive. Remind them they can always talk to you about things happening online.

If you feel comments or post may be affecting your child’s mental health and wellbeing, seek advice from your GP. Depending on the seriousness, you might want to report it to police on 101.

Are they ready to share on social media?

Did you know that most applications have a minimum age rating of 13 which means the content might not be suitable for a younger child.

Carry out some research yourself about why type of content they may be exposed to.

For further information and advice, visit Internet Matters.

Betrayed by her boyfriend in revenge porn nightmare

Hazel was head over heels in love when she shared an intimate video with her boyfriend. She had no idea he would betray her trust just months later.

I will never forget the summer of 2013. I was 23 years-old. I’d not long split up with my boyfriend of 10 months and I was sitting in a park having a picnic with my friends thinking about my future and looking to put the past behind me.

I glanced down at my phone to see I’d been sent lots of Facebook friend requests. When I looked to see who they were from I realised they were all men, strange men I’d never met or even heard of.

It was only when I checked the messages in my ‘others’ folder that dread began to fill my body. The messages were rude, some unbelievably crude, strangers describing what they wanted to do to me.

There were also messages from men warning me that ‘my video’ had been ‘leaked’ with attached links so I could find it. I googled my name and there it was, page after page, site after site. In big capital letters all I could see was my name, my full name, accompanied with insulting tags. I felt dirty and disgusted. How could he do this to me?

When I first got with my boyfriend, I was infatuated. He asked me to do a little video for him for ‘when we were apart’. I eventually agreed. The video was quickly forgotten about and that was that.

Our relationship broke down some months later as I discovered him to be very manipulative. He said he would post the video online but I didn’t believe him. I didn’t think he or anyone could be that cruel. I even doubted that he was responsible when it did come out.

My nightmare continued over the next few weeks as the video went viral. It was re-posted by people across the world and I would have about 30 strangers message me every day. It took a long time but I contacted the websites directly and explained what had happened and to my relief, one by one the videos were being taken down.

Was I wrong to share the video with my then boyfriend? At the time no. I trusted him and never believed he would ever take revenge on me in such a hurtful way.

Would I send photos to a new boyfriend? I have been asked and I confidently explain why I’d rather not. I have only ever received positive responses. I am respected for that decision.

However, I do believe that if someone wishes to share such images then there should be nothing wrong with that, provided you are of a legal age and there is complete trust. The receiver respects and understands the consequences they can face if they break this trust and the law.

I’ve since campaigned alongside MPs for revenge porn to become a crime and in 2015 it became illegal to distribute a private sexual image of someone without their consent and with the intention of causing them distress.

It covers images posted to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter as well as those that are shared via text message and carried a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment.

I’ve shared my story in schools and been shocked at the number of people who have not only sent or received images or videos but how many have become a victim when their personal images have been shared online.

Please don’t suffer alone. There is help available.

Snaps, sexts, nudes, fanpics – an insight into teenage life on social media.

Rebecca, 13, provides an insight into teenage life on social media.

“I’ve had a phone for two years now. I wanted one so I could chat with my friends. I’m now on Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and Oovoo.

“I send selfies to my friends all the time but I’ve never sent a nude. I can’t imagine taking my clothes off and sending a stranger or even someone I know a naked picture. It’s just weird. My body is private. That’s not to say a lot of my friends do and they think it’s cool and normal too.

“My friend Lucy sends her boyfriend, and other boys, nudes all the time. She’s forever getting her boobs and more out. The boys open them in front of their mates, just like she does when she receives one, so we end up seeing private parts of girls and boys from across the school. Lucy sometimes gets upset when she finds out other people have been looking at her pictures but that doesn’t stop her doing it again. She thinks it makes the boys happy and it makes her feel good about herself.

“I’ve had boys in the year above me send nudes. They start sending pictures of their face and the pictures just continue until their revealing all. They try to get me to send them back. It’s disgusting to see so I delete them and if they keep hassling me I just block them.

“I also get random messages from guys I’ve never heard of. Asking me to chat and asking me to check out links to horrible websites. One of my friends was contacted by a French guy who’d been looking at the pictures and videos on her profile and telling her that he really liked her and wanted to meet up. We told her to block him. It was a bit weird.

“My parents were initially against me using social media, saying that I was too young but we talked about what should and shouldn’t be shared. We talk lots at school about what staying safe online and I feel confident there are people I could turn to if I ever found myself in trouble.

“My phone is a big part of my life and I’m never without it. I’m aware that there are dangers of being on social media but so long as you think about what you are doing and sharing, you’ll be safe.”

What her dad, Daniel, 48 says:

“Rebecca was 11-years-old when we decided she needed a phone. She was in Year 6 and had just started walking to and from school with her friends. Yes she wanted a phone but it was for her own safety that we bought her one.

“We set ground rules from day one. We’ve put restrictions on the phone so anything unsuitable for under 15s can’t be accessed or viewed. Other stipulations were that she enables the phone tracking at all times so I can locate her. Also, her passcode must be displayed on the fridge at all times so if we want to access it for any reason, we can do so.

“It’s shocking to know the things 11, 12 and 13-year-olds say and send to each other. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rebecca hasn’t thought about sending an image that perhaps she shouldn’t but as parents we can’t monitor her activity 24/7.

“It worries us as parents what could happen knowing that she’s got an online presence but it’s part of the world we live in and we’ve got to trust that she’ll make the right decisions but also let her know that we’re here if she ever needs our help.”

We can all play a part in protecting children from child abuse

It’s a sad fact that at Cambridgeshire Constabulary we have investigated 625 cases of child abuse across the county between January 1 and November 30 this year.

Protecting children from harm , keeping them safe and investigating child abuse crimes in all forms is and will always be a priority for us.

We have a dedicated team called the Child Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit (CAISU) who take a child-centred approach to ensure the welfare and well-being of the child is core to every investigation.

We also work closely with our partner agencies in social care, education and health to manage the safety of children and investigate criminal offences.

Child abuse comes in various forms and can affect anyone. The consequences can be life-changing for the victim and those around them.

Here’s a bit more information about the four main types; emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse.

Emotional abuse is the second most common reason for children needing protection from abuse but one of perhaps the least spoken about. It’s psychological abuse which can damage a child’s emotional health and well-being. Deliberately trying to scare or humiliate a child or isolating or ignoring them is an example.

Signs to look out for in a child’s behaviour include being overly affectionate towards strangers, lacking confidence or being aggressive or nasty to other children.

Others might struggle to control their emotions, seem isolated from their parents or carers, lack social skills or have few friends.

Neglect is the most common form of child abuse and can have a debilitating and long-lasting effect on a child’s physical well-being and on their mental, emotional and behavioural development.

It’s defined as not meeting a child’s basic needs including adequate healthcare, supervision, clothing, nutrition, housing as well as their physical, emotional, social, educational and safety needs. It can be anything from leave a child at home alone to the very worst case where a child dies from malnutrition.

Multiple or persistent signs of poor appearance and hygiene, health and development problems and housing a family issues could indicate a serious problem.

Physical abuse is when someone deliberately hurts a child. Children who are physically abused suffer violence such as being hit, kicked, poisoned, burned, slapped or have objects thrown at them.

All children have bumps, scrapes and falls but if a child often has injuries, there seems to be a pattern, or the explanation doesn’t match the injury then it needs to be investigated.

If you think a child is in danger, call police straight away on 999.

Sexual abuse is when a child or young person is forced or enticed to take part in sexual activities. It’s important to know that it doesn’t have to be physical, it can happen online.

One in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused and more than 90 per cent of children sexually abused knew their offender.

Children might stay away from certain people or seem frightened if they are being sexually abused. They may also show sexual behaviour that’s inappropriate for their age and have physical symptoms.

You have a key role to playpcso-no-words

It’s often difficult for children and young people to tell someone about their abuse, particularly if they are being manipulated by their abuser or if they don’t think they’ll be believed. They might show it in other behavioural ways.

Each and every one of us can help prevent further abuse of an individual by reporting child abuse.

Sharing your concerns doesn’t mean a child will be automatically taken into care. Your concerns will be carefully listened to, information gathered and then an assessment of the immediate risk will be carried out to decide the appropriate action.

You don’t have to be absolutely certain about your suspicions. If you feel something isn’t right you can talk to us on 101, the NSPCC, Childline or your local authority. If you feel a child’s life is in immediate danger please call 999 straight away.