A report in the Birmingham Mail last week highlighted an issue of young girls being sexually exploited by older teen gang members in the south Birmingham area.
What is the issue?
Over recent months, with an increase in gang related activity across South West Birmingham, West Midlands Police have openly admitted there is an issue with gangs in the area and that they are working hard – both as a force and with other community partners – to tackle this.
Gang culture brings with it drugs, weapons, loyalties and exploitation – sometimes sexual –of vulnerable members or potential members.
In a statement, Superintendent Mat Shaer from Birmingham Police, said: “Several people are under investigation following allegations of child sexual exploitation in Birmingham which continues at pace.
“As a result, a number of victims have been identified and suspects arrested.
“Some of the suspects are believed to be affiliated to gangs in Birmingham which we are continuing to tackle as part of an on-going police crackdown on organised crime groups by police and partners.”
Another Rotherham? Who is exploiting who?
Cllr Randal Brew (Con, Northfield) told the Birmingham Mail that girls as young as 13 are being coerced into sexual acts with gang members and sometimes these acts are videoed. He said it could be likened to the Rotherham abuse.
However, is this comparison is a little misleading?
In an email conversation with Cllr Brew (published in the Birmingham Mail), Birmingham City Council Chief Executive Stella Manzie said: “In this part of the south of the city there has been evidence of emerging gang activity and sadly allegations of sexual exploitation of younger children by older children has been a feature.” [Source: Birmingham Mail]
What’s being done?
West Midlands Police, Birmingham City Council, schools and other community partners are working together to address these issues.
A spokesman for BCC said: “Child sexual exploitation is an issue that this council takes extremely seriously and we have a clear strategy in place to address the issue in all schools across the city, including an effective reporting system that allows us to support vulnerable children.
“We continue to work closely with the police and other partner agencies to meet the challenges of child sexual exploitation within our city. Where particular concerns are highlighted, schools will work with the council and other agencies to assess the most appropriate way to engage with parents and the wider community on a case-by-case basis.”
Supt Mat Shaer confirmed that a number of victims have been identified and suspects have been arrested. He said: “Safeguarding children is a priority for West Midlands Police and we continue to work with our partners such as local authorities, schools and third sector organisations to safeguard young people.”
In her email to Cllr Brew, BCC Chief Executive Stella Manzie said: “We have invested jointly with the police and responded in the case of each child and where disclosure allegations have been made there have been plans put in place for each child involved according to their assessed need.”
Supt Shaer also appealed for the community to come forward with information, saying: “The public are our eyes and ears on the ground; if you suspect anyone is involved in gang related crime or anti-social behaviour then please contact us in confidence so we can take action.”
Where to get help?
If you are under 18 and you are worried that this may be happening to you or a friend, please speak to an adult you trust, such as a parent or teacher. If you don’t feel able to do this, please visit the See Me Hear Me website for advice on spotting the signs of sexual exploitation and to report.
If you are an adult and you have concerns about a child in your care or a child you know, contact the police in confidence, speak to their teachers or visit the See Me Hear Me website for advice and to report
Richard Burden MP (Birmingham Northfield, Labour):
“Sex exploitation and violence against children are vile crimes and it is a nightmare for any parent to suspect that his or her child might have fallen prey this kind of abuse.
“It is worrying but sadly not surprising that gang activity is also linked to some examples child sexual exploitation. it is one of the reasons why it is so important for a crackdown on gangs to be a priority for the Police here in Birmingham.
“I am pleased that arrests have been made and the the Police tell me they are actively pursuing several criminal investigations are ongoing. Close liaison between Police, schools, and local authority is also vital to keeping children and young people safe from exploitation and abuse and the Police have assured me that this is also happening.
“It is equally vital that nobody feels intimidated from coming forward if they are threatened with abuse or they suspect that a friend or family member is under threat. Tell a teacher and remember you can talk to the Police in confidence.”
Cllr Andy Cartwright (Longbridge, Labour):
“We are aware of the issues with gangs that have come to light in the area recently. Some good partnership work and discussion has been happening but we all need to stand together – politicians, partners, police, schools, groups and residents – and help our community and young people.
“These gangs need to see that we will not allow this and that we will put up what ever barriers we need to stop them. We need to face up to the fact that Longbridge and Northfield have changed and we need to put more police officers on our streets and in our town centres and working with our schools.
“We need to give our young people opportunities and steer them away from gangs. We need to be given the proper resources to tackle these issues as its our children that are at risk from these gangs and antisocial behaviour.
“We have a great community here and we all need to stand up for it in its time of need.”