Thursday, 16 November 2017

Sexual predators; help us find them and stop them.

Sexual predators.1  I wish I had a better term to describe those people who bully, pressurize, bribe and exploit others so they can feel powerful over other them and make them do things they don't want to do. It's not the label I would use for that kind of person, but I hope you know the type of people I am trying to describe.

Once upon a time I thought  they were pretty easy to recognize if you knew where to look.  I used to see them hanging out at train stations, lurking outside public toilets and late at night in the shadows. Their behaviour was the very definition of "furtive".  It made my skin crawl but I relished getting in their way and messing up their plans.  I even felt good about locking a few of them up when I could.  But that was a while ago.

Now? I realize I didn't know how to recognize those posing a threat to the young and vulnerable as well as I thought back then. Some of the people I thought were "sex creeps" were not the dangerous offenders I thought they were. The more obvious lessons I and society have (hopefully) learned over the last 33 years are these.  Teenagers who go missing and end up loitering and begging around coach and train stations are no longer "street wise runaways" who "willingly accept" inappropriate attention in exchange for a sense of safety and belonging.  They are vulnerable Mispers (missing persons) and we will look for them, find them and do our best to keep them safe.  It is wrong to hound and harass those who because of their sexuality feel pushed in to the shadows to seek acceptance and intimacy.  I also hope that as a wider community we obsess less about other people's sexuality.  People have and always will be just people.  As for revelers who have over indulged on a night out, they are no longer only looked at as potential or actual trouble makers that need arresting or shooing away.  Now there is less of a risk that they will end up in a stranger's "unlicensed cab" or even wandering dark streets to avoid being arrested.  We have CCTV, mobile phones and an awareness of the dangers around us that may have been less pronounced in the past.  You will also see "street safe" drunk treatment tents and emergency service personnel giving hours of their time to make sure drunks are kept safe and get home safely.

But as anyone who has seen the headlines in recent years will know, there are still lots of nasty sexually motivated offenders out there.  They have seem their own changes too.  Street drugs are ubiquitous, sexualisation of young people is used to sell music and clothes, pornography that normalizes bullying and exploitation is common.  The greed and violence associated with selling street drugs has spawned whole networks, cuckoo houses and honey pots with an embedded culture of exploitation and lack of respect.  The reach, speed and efficiency of the World Wide Web has grown so the ease with which we can anonymously find, talk to and connect with people has mushroomed.  As a colleague said recently, "My daughter is potentially at more risk in her bedroom than going to the shops on a Saturday afternoon".  Pornography has almost gone mainstream.  Whilst more conversations about healthy sex, experimenting and curiosity are I believe good things, this is not the message pornography tends to relay.  It is easy for emotionally immature people to assimilate the idea that it is ok for sex to be selfish, an entitlement, exploitative and without consequences. Some even act on that idea.

So it remains as important as ever to learn and evolve to better protect the bullied and exploited and targeted.  I am sure we will.  And "We" is all of us; every community, every demographic, every profession.  It has also never been more true that the police are the public and the public are the police.  The "online world", what goes on in within families, kids exploited by other kids sometimes using the promise of forbidden fruits is to big a place for "the authorities" to know all the places we should be looking.  Stopping these bad people is just too serious to be left solely to those who are paid to carry out the duties of all citizens full time.

So how do we do that?  Well the fight against Child Sexual Exploitation has got five messages which come from what people who have lived it have told the police.  This is some advice I've heard and seemed worth sharing.

·   I didn't know I was being targeted for sex. I thought we were online friends. To the boys and girls in front of their iDroid Smartphone, XSwitchProStation, Tablet, Laptop and PC - it is ok to be suspicious.  If someone is trying to get to know you better or you are suspicions at all, go for the "kit always on, video chat check or ghost".  If you only know them online and only ever see their avatar, it's just sensible to have a video chat (with their clothes on!!) to prove neither of you are some middle aged bloke.  No cam, connection too slow, not allowed and 'another time' excuses earns a trip straight to the "ghost zone".  And if you are asked to do the same, it's up to you if you chat or take the "ghost" option.  

·  I didn't know my boyfriend wanted me to have sex with his friends. There are some things you need to know.  These are: You are an incredible person. You will do great things, have great friends and work out for yourself who you want to share your body with.  If your "boyfriend" insults, says things to hurt your feelings, insults you in front of his friends or acts like he is "in charge" of you, he is not your boyfriend and you should dump him.  Maybe try to avoid a row. Find an adult you trust, your parent, your doctor, your teacher, any police officer and tell them what has happened.  

·  I didn't know that texting a naked selfie would end up on the internet forever.  This applies to text messages and all your other tech.  If you haven't gone "kit off" then probably best you don't.  Every text, video chat or photo on any app can be recovered. People will show and share photos and videos, you know they will.  They will still exist on the internet when you find someone you want to get serious with.  They will be there when you go to university.  They will still be there when you apply get the message.  If you have already gone kit off, you will be fine but you may want some help if your photos are shared. We can help.  Oh and if you think about sharing, texting or forwarding something to your besties or mates - that is a criminal offence.

·  I didn't know that my daughter was being sexually exploited - I thought she was out with her friends.  For all the families of all types out there, please keep talking to each other. Be honest with each other. Don't judge. Do listen, help and support.  There is so much to cope with as you grow up and it's not easy.  Being able to help someone stop a bad decision becoming a really nasty situation is what it's all about.  Oh, and this more "do what I say" advice.  I am on a life long course learning how to talk to my family.  Just when I think I've got it sorted, the instructions change.

·  I didn't know if I had concerns about exploitation I could call the police.  You can. We want you to.  By email to or phoning 101, or online reporting at our website, or picking up the blue phone at a station, or Crime Stoppers Crime Stoppers Website .  Please do to tell us what is worrying you.



PS - may the people around you be kind to you and each other, drive carefully and look after everyone's stuff.

1. I don't really like the term.   It suggests the abuser is some sort of a "stalking hunter" which in my experience is giving them way more status than they deserve. The converse is that there is some sort of "prey" which does not do justice to the bravery, dignity and ability to fight I have seen in survivors.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Sometimes I love this job!

Talk about a varied job.  In a single shift, whilst I have been sat at my comfy desk bravely picking my way through the mysteries and perils of Excel spreadsheets (who knew COUNTIF could do that!) and Power Point Presentations, my colleagues have been calming angry motorists, investigating sexual offences, interviewing bullies who have threatened their neighbours, searching for missing people and, well just being the police.  And when we are just being the police we get up to all sorts of stuff.

I really wanted to tell you about some of the stuff I have been neglecting to share with the fans of this blog, both of you. (Thanks Dad).  So armed with a cheap plastic pen and a bunch of sticky notes (sadly not Post-it notes, but a non branded generic sticky") I interrupted those colleagues I could find in the station to find out what interesting stuff they had been dealing with.

It turns out it was this lot.
I don't mean to suggest everyone had been dealing with snakes.  Just two of them.  Two officers that is, and three incidents each with their own snake. The first officer was on foot patrol when he saw a small crowd blocking traffic on what is a pretty busy thoroughfare. As he approached he was saw a "four foot long red and white snake curled up in the middle of the road" and was immediately elected by the crowd as snake catcher in chief.  As he put it, "It must have been my snake catcher uniform that gave it away".  The said officer tried to drag the snake out of the road by the tail. Apparently it tried to bite him. In the end a local "snake enthusiast" came to the rescue by wrapping the said snake around his arm and promising to look after the snake until it's true home was discovered.  I don't know if the snake is still there, or if wrapping strange snakes around your arm is a common practice amongst snake enthusiasts.  It certainly is not amongst police officers.

The other officer went to two serpent related incidents in the same week, totally unrelated incidents too.  The first was to a California King snake in the garden of a house on the outskirts of a small market town.  California King is a great sounding name for a very snaky looking snake of unknown provinence, especially one that had wrapped itself around a lady's flower pot.  It didn't look at all friendly so the lady did the obvious thing.  Again, the best snake catcher the lady could think of was the police.

And it was just a couple of days after that the same officer was called upon to exercise his snake catching skills once more.  This time it was to catch a Corn Snake.  I really don't know, or want to know much about Corn Snakes.  Having had a very brief peek at Wikipedia they look like the sort of animal people should avoid, unless you are Bear Grylls in which case they would probably make a handy mid morning snack.  Anyway, my mental image of the Great Corn Snake Chase is set to the theme tune from Benny Hill and involves a single file, police lead team of intrepid locals snaking through the village after the snake.  Sadly the reality was less amusing and the officer happened to have a dog pole (the sort that allows you to keep outside of biting range whilst placing a rope loop around the dog's neck) which did the job just fine.

I also managed to jot down some tales about mysterious whit rabbits, stubborn sheep, angry horses and indestructible deer,

I'll keep them for another time.



PS - please take care when driving, be kind and leave other's stuff alone.


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Bang Bang

Thanks to the Police Federation October Newsletter for the phot.
Guns, it's all about guns again.  As I mentioned before there are people I respect and like who are keen on their guns.   I don't really get it, but I didn't grow up hunting and carrying a gun.  I don't envy my colleagues who carry them.  I get it that we can't uninvent, take away, make safe or ignore the guns that are out there.  Whilst unarmed, apart from cuffs and a stick, I have twice gone after armed robbers who still had their guns.  One of whom I had watched loose off a bunch of rounds into the roof of the bar he was robbing.  I really do not know what I would have done if I had caught up with either of them.  I get it that the robbers themselves would have ultimately decided whether they would kill, so it's true that it's the person and not the gun that chooses violence.  But I am absolutely sure most people like me know the brutality, loss and evil as well as the efficiency with which they are dispensed if the person decides on violence is magnified and enabled by a gun.
The horror, tragedy and suffering that we have just seen one person unleash in Las Vegas was so wrong.  I do not know those who suffered or their families, but I still hold them in my thoughts and wish them peace.  Professionally I respect the first responders who went to the scene.  I wonder how we, I, would have managed the incident.  It really did make me think about how I feel toward carrying a firearm.
Then I saw the article in the Police Federation newsletter from which I borrowed the picture above.  The title of this article made me sit up and feel a little worried that we, the Old Bill, The Job, The Bobbies had decided it was time to go for it.  The title was:

"Member survey shows increased support for routine arming"

But I felt calmer when I read the following.

“Despite the atrocities seen this year, a terror threat that only goes up, never down, and prolonged pressure heaped on officers, they still hold on to the principle of policing by consent, with two thirds of officers not wishing to be routinely armed if given the choice.”

Thankfully the decision on how we arm the police is not solely up to the police federation or the police themselves.  I am sure you will be asked what you think too.  So whilst the headlines are instantly pushing bad news into our faces, and you are seeing more specialist firearms officers out and about, I don't think you will see the likes of me routinely armed any time soon.  But then again, that is just my own, individual, unofficial, gunphobic opinion.

There, just wanted to get that off my chest.  I now need to concentrate on something closer to home for a while.

Yours ever,


May your driving be smooth, your kindness strong and your materialism honest.