Spot the signs and change the story – Tasha’s story

As part of a weeklong “county lines” awareness campaign, we are educating officers, staff, partners and the public about spotting the signs of this type of crime.

Take Tasha’s story. She was a child who went missing and returned home on many occasions. But what was she up to while missing?

Spot the signs and change the story. #SaferCambs

Here’s Tasha’s story…

I met Jamie about six months ago. He used to hang around the back of the school playing field at lunch and give me cigarettes. He’s generous like that, but then again I guess he can afford to be. I mean, come on, he has his own flat (well one he shares with that man) and have you seen his trainers?

Jamie is so nice, well he was at first. He was always telling me how beautiful I am and saying he wanted to spend more time with me. That’s why we started meeting up after school. It was so much fun but I had a curfew and had to be home at night.

Then one day Jamie suggested I moved in with him. I was so excited, how could I say no? He had his own flat and was earning good money. So I packed my bag and moved in.

That first weekend was great. No adults bossing me around. We had a house-warming party, drank vodka and I even tried a bit of cocaine.  Nobody would miss me from my foster home. Well that’s what I thought. But I was wrong. The foster carers had called the police, who found me after a couple of days and returned me to my home.

But our love was strong and Jamie continued to meet me at lunch times and more often than not I wouldn’t bother going back to school in the afternoons. Nobody was going to stop me seeing him. Then he asked me to move in with him again. He said he needed some help with a big job and I could earn some money while I lived there. All I had to do was deliver a package to a flat, which was a short bus ride away. Well of course I was going to say yes, wasn’t I?

So I packed my bag again and after everybody had gone to bed I sneaked out.

I delivered the package. It wasn’t as simple as I had thought it would be as I had to hide the package, in my body, so nobody would find it, because if I got caught with it I would most definitely get in trouble with the police and it would cost Jamie a lot of money. This was because the package contained drugs. But I didn’t mind. I was being paid and it made Jamie happy.

Anyway, after a few days the police caught up with me again. Luckily I wasn’t carrying a package. But I did have the mobile phone Jamie gave me and £200 cash on me. Thankfully, I explained them away and the police just returned me to my foster home once again.

It’s so annoying when the police pick me up and return me home. Luckily, everybody is just so happy that I am ‘safe and well’ that they don’t really ask what I’ve been up to while I’ve been away.

I’ve run away loads of times now. Jamie’s got used to me being taken away from him. But it’s only ever for a few days and then we get to see each other again. We’re used to spending time apart because when I do deliveries for him I can be gone for a few days at a time, so it’s no different.

This time I may be away for a little longer than a few days and I don’t like my chances of running away much either as I don’t think the police will be returning me to my foster parents anytime soon.

That’s because this time they found me in a hotel room with £10,000 worth of heroin. I think I might be going to prison. I’m hoping Jamie will be able to sort it out. The police haven’t been able to get hold of him on the number I have for him yet. They say it’s been disconnected. But that can’t be right.

It’s been a few days now but I’m sure he will be in touch, won’t he?

 

Would you know how to spot the signs of drug dealing in your local community?

Would you know that someone was vulnerable to exploitation by drug dealers?

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Have you seen something you think could be drug related but are not sure?
  • Do you know someone who is being forced or asked to deal drugs?
  • Do you know someone who is saying they have a drugs debt?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes you should call police on 101 or report it online at www.contactcambspolice.uk/Report/.You don’t need to give us your name. Just tell us what you know – even the smallest amount of information could be the piece of the puzzle we need. Calls can be dealt with anonymously. Or you can contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111 or via www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

If somebody is in immediate danger or a crime is taking place you should always call 999.

You can find out more about county lines on our county lines web pages.

While this article is based on real life examples all characters and events in this story are fictional and have been created to deliver information about county lines criminality.

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.

Results of the Ramsey policing survey

A few weeks ago, the St Ives policing team drew up and distributed an online survey designed to give residents of Ramsey and the surrounding villages the opportunity to let police know their views and opinions on crime and anti-social behaviour in their communities and how they feel policing is carried out locally.

The survey gave people the opportunity to say what they felt local policing priorities should be, within the framework of Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s overall objectives, and also what other concerns and worries about crime and policing they may have.

In the two-week period that the survey was open, 283 questionnaires were completed and sent in – a really excellent response! Thank you to everyone who took the time to do the survey and let us know your views and opinions.

The survey is part of the Constabulary’s Community Engagement Programme and will be followed up by a Police/Community Forum Meeting at Ramsey Methodist Church on June 21 from 7.30pm.

The meeting will be chaired by Sgt Andy Street, who will give a presentation on the findings of the survey and answer questions from the audience.

For the benefit of everyone who completed the survey, and anyone else who is interested, here are graphs showing the responses to the various questions that were asked:

q1q2q3q4q5q6

 

 

“It is more than just a way to spend your spare time; it’s another career and can be a completely different way of life to what you’re used to”

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Chemist Louisa Bellis explains what it’s like being a Special

Being a Special Constable is like nothing I could have ever imagined or predicted. When I started the application process in 2010, I knew that I was interested in being a police officer, but I didn’t know if I would be a ‘good fit’ for the Force, or even if it would be something that I would ultimately enjoy or be good at. However, literally an hour into my first shift in January 2012 I knew it was for me and haven’t looked back since. 2,400+ operational hours later and I am still hooked and full of enthusiasm, wanting to do more.

I had always been interested in policing and law & order, and in my younger days had briefly thought about being an officer, but science won out and I headed off to university to study chemistry. After finishing my PhD, I was employed at a company where I had to travel frequently and never had much spare time. When I moved to Cambridgeshire from Yorkshire in 2009 for a new job, I suddenly found that I had a lot more free time and I started to consider constructive and rewarding ways that I could fill it. Whilst I was looking at volunteering positions, I remembered seeing an advertisement for being a Special Constable on television with the tagline of ‘Could You?’, which sparked my long-forgotten memories of wanting to be a police officer. Once I had investigated what being a Special Constable would entail, I knew instantly that was the direction I wanted to go in. The application and interview process was the most intensive that I have experienced (yes, even more so than applying for a PhD in chemistry!) and after being a police officer for the past three years, I can see why this is necessary. The process may be long and in-depth, but it is definitely worthwhile.

After attestation, I spent just under a year working with a shift in Cambridge City on the Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT). This was an incredible eye-opener as to what goes on in the world that, generally, you are not exposed to except through the media, and even then it’s in a diluted format. In this team, you deal with anything from a simple Saturday shoplifting job to a vicious, drunken assault outside a nightclub. I loved my time in SNT, but I was always pulled towards the two and four-wheeled side of policing, also known as the Road Policing Unit (RPU). After applying and sitting the qualifying boards, I was accepted into RPU and this is where I have been for just over 2 years. My shifts with RPU are mostly made up of road traffic collisions (RTCs), speed enforcement and general patrols on the main arterial routes around Cambridgeshire. I have dealt with many broken down cars, which can involve literally pushing a car around a roundabout into a petrol station, or pushing them off the main road onto the grass verge (and slipping into the mud for my troubles) or protecting colleagues on the main roads by directing traffic around them whilst they help members of the public. I have attended more collisions than I can count, all of differing severity. I have no shame in telling people that some of these collisions have affected me emotionally afterwards, but the support that you are given by your regular colleagues is amazing and you never feel like you have to deal with things alone. On the flip side, I’ve been to more jobs that have been uplifting where I’ve walked away believing that I have helped or a made a difference in some small way.

It is more than just a way to spend your spare time; it’s another career and can be a completely different way of life to what you’re used to. It infiltrates everything you do; from the way you interact with people, to the experiences it gives you that no other job can. My day-to-day life as a scientist has given me the skills to be analytical and gather information before making decisions. This has come in handy when I have had to investigate crimes and offences. Another skill that I brought from my day job to the police was the ability to sit back and listen to people, which is very important when you are faced with members of the public who are distressed or angry.

However, it’s not all about what you can bring to the job, it’s also about what you can get out of it. In fact, my overall confidence has been increased, due to having to deal with such a variation of jobs and people and having to react immediately to whatever is thrown at you. It’s also made me more relaxed about situations and stopped me taking insults and criticisms personally. When you are a Special, you work alongside other Specials, either on shift or at various operations. For me, this has led to meeting some great people, some of whom I now consider to be my best friends. You are able to bond over shared experiences, such as juggling a full time job with carrying out hours as an officer. This can be tiring and mean that you miss out on a social life, but having a support network of people in a similar situation makes it a lot easier.

Specials are often used to train the new regular officers, new PCSOs, new Specials and even the Police Support Unit. This can involve you helping with role-plays or even pretending to be part of a violent disorder group. Days like these can be a lot of fun and you get to meet a lot of people. You also have the freedom to take part in interesting operations, such as traffic enforcement alongside VOSA and HM Customs, plain-clothes burglary patrols and drugs warrants. If football is your thing, Specials are frequently asked to help out at local football matches. A couple of operations that will stay with me are marshalling the Olympic Flame tour back in 2012 and the Tour De France in 2014, both of which were fabulous experiences that I couldn’t have got from anywhere else and the memories will last a lifetime.

Ultimately, being a Special Constable has changed me as a person, for the better. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ role and it isn’t for everyone, but I would urge people to try it out. I wouldn’t change any of the experiences that I have had for anything, as it’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done and I expect to continue for many years yet. For me, it gives me the best of both worlds. I get to be a scientist by day, which I love, and I get to be a police officer in the evenings and weekends, which I also love. I don’t have to choose between them and I get to enjoy having two careers at the same time. How many people can say that?

For more on becoming a Special visit here HERE

Modern slavery: a victim’s experience

I’d been through a tough time in Latvia and was looking for a fresh start. I’d heard how people had moved to the UK and found work with good wages. It felt like the right thing to do to get out of my situation.

I saw an advert online saying that there was plenty of work in Cambridgeshire. I called the number and spoke to a man who said that he could guarantee work and that accommodation would also be included as part of the job.

I didn’t have the money to pay for the travel, but he said I could pay him back when I got my wages. It sounded perfect and I agreed to go.

When I arrived in the UK I was taken to my accommodation. It wasn’t what I expected, but I didn’t want to complain. I thought I could find something else after a few months of working. There were twelve of us living in a two bedroom house, sleeping on mattresses on the floor.

The man who brought me to the UK said he needed my passport to complete some paperwork before I could start work, so I gave it to him.

It took about a week before I started work, initially in the fields and then later in a factory. The hours were long and my wages were paid to the man who organised everything. He only gave me about £15 a week after he had taken off money for rent, my debt for travel to the UK and transport to work.

Sometimes there wasn’t any work for a while, but I still had to pay rent. I couldn’t afford to and so it was added to my debt.

I confronted him about returning my passport and the low wages, but he assaulted me and said I was ungrateful. I felt trapped and just had to take it. I had to spend all the money I got on food just to survive. Even if I did somehow manage to save enough money to go home, I didn’t have my passport to make the journey.

I was becoming increasingly desperate and didn’t know where to turn.

Then one day police officers came to the house and said that they were investigating the man who had brought me to the UK. I told them what had happened to me and they arranged for me to go to a place of safety.

I thought my situation in Latvia was bad, but this had been much worse. I wish I’d never taken the job, but finally I had managed to escape.

If you’re concerned for someone’s welfare please call police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. Alternatively you can call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

For more information on the signs to look out for visit http://bit.ly/2qb3RAn.

*This blog has been based on common experiences of victims of modern slavery in Cambridgeshire. It is not the specific account of one individual.

Results from the St Ives and District ‘Policing Opinion Survey’, March 2017

In March of this year, the St Ives Local Policing Team drew up and distributed an online survey designed to give residents of St Ives and the surrounding villages the opportunity to let the police know their views and opinions on crime and anti-social behaviour in their own communities.

As well as capturing basic demographic data such as the age and gender of respondents, the survey was particularly interested in finding out what people felt policing priorities should be in their communities, within the framework of Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s overall objectives.

In the two-week period that the survey was open, two hundred and thirty six questionnaires were completed and sent in – an excellent response! Thank you to everyone who took the time to do the survey and let us know your views, worries, opinions and concerns.

The survey was part of the Constabulary’s Community Engagement Program and was followed up by a Police / Community Forum Meeting held in Needingworth Village Hall on the evening of March 30. The meeting was chaired by Sgt Andy Street of the Local Policing Team, who gave a presentation on the findings of the survey and also answered questions from the audience about crime in the local area.

Also present was a representative from Cambridgeshire County Council’s Trading Standards Department who gave a very interesting and useful talk on frauds and scams, and how we can protect ourselves from them.

For the benefit of anyone who completed the survey but was not able to attend the meeting, and anyone else who is interested, please see the attached graphs showing the responses to the various questions that were asked

survey 1

 

survey 2

survey 3

 

 

survey 4

 

 

 

survey 5

 

survey 6

 

 

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.