Operation Sanctuary is the Northumbria Police response to all aspects of sexual exploitation of Children and Adults within the Northumbria Police area.
Operation Shelter (which sits under the umbrella of Operation Sanctuary) focusses on the sexual exploitation of Children and vulnerable Adults predominantly, but not exclusively, within the Newcastle area.
The operation has been ongoing for 17 months and is the most significant investigation concerning sexual exploitation that Northumbria Police has undertaken.
Operation Shelter staff have spoken with in excess of 300 potential complainants (i.e. young girls and young adults who are believed to have been at risk of sexual exploitation, either historically or currently).
33 people have been charged with significant numbers of offences relating to sexual exploitation resulting from Operation Sanctuary investigations.
A series of four trials will commence in September 2015 and conclude in February 2016. These trails will involve 25 defendants.
Thus far this investigation has identified few instances of sexual exploitation within the Northumberland area or with Children resident in Northumberland.
To date, through Operation Sanctuary, there have been 163 arrests, 51 charged, 10 Deportation Orders and 30 taxi licences suspended or revoked.
Northumberland County Council Licensing department revoked licenses for 5 taxi drivers as a direct result of information received from Northumbria Police as part of Operation Sanctuary and as a result now have a direct link through NCC Intelligence Manager and the Northumbria Police Traffic Intelligence ensuring all timely and effective response to intelligence and information.
In response to Operation Shelter and Operational Sanctuary:
- meetings are held between Adult Services, Children’s Services, the Police and Public Protection to ensure effective coordination and to ensure that robust safeguarding arrangements are in place in relation to those identified.
- a weekly meeting is held between representatives of all six Local Authorities and Northumbria Police to share information and to ensure effective arrangements are in place.
- The Missing Children’s Social Worker attends the weekly operational meetings and the Missing Children's Social Worker and Team Manager from the 16+ team attend the 6 weekly complex abuse meetings. The formal operational and strategic regional links through Operation Sanctuary are important in terms of sharing information, identifying and preventing sexual exploitation in Northumberland.
- Northumbria Police have recently been successful in their bid to the Police Innovation Fund. And plans are in place to develop Project Sanctuary, an Intelligence Led Multi Agency Operational Hub to tackle Sexual Exploitation, Vulnerability and Modern Day Slavery
- Project Sanctuary will build on key learning from Operation Sanctuary by establishing two multi-agency operational teams, one covering the north of the force and the other the south, to tackle child exploitation, vulnerability and modern day slavery.
- A part time NCC social worker will be seconded to Project Sanctuary for 24 months and a single point of contact will be identified for adult services.
- The teams will be co-located within non-police premises to establish community based ‘hubs’ that will take a victim-based approach in keeping with good practice identified during Operation Sanctuary
- There will be a new Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Social Work Coordinator role; four in each hub which will oversee and coordinate social work activity across individual local authority boundaries; with agreement having already been formally agreed with partners from each of the local councils.
- In addition to those organisations occupying co-located space within each hub, SCARPA, The Children’s Society will ‘sit’ outside of the hubs but will have direct links into them and will work alongside the embedded Missing From Home Coordinators and Family Support Workers; to reduce the numbers/frequency of children going missing from home.
- The hubs will link directly with a new ‘Victim Services Hub’ to provide additional opportunities for providing bespoke services to victims by enabling timely and effective access to the improved victims’ services that will be available.
- The hubs will direct and drive the activity of their own dedicated investigative units to target identified perpetrators. Located in police premises and totally separate to the community based hubs
- The activity of the hubs and their dedicated investigative units will be enhanced by the use of state-of-the-art technology including i) a ‘cloud’ based multi-agency information-sharing platform; ii) location-based social media monitoring software together with dedicated Covert Internet Investigation (CII) and iii) a computerised application (App) to create a contemporary, widely accessible interface to share and receive safeguarding information with those susceptible to exploitation, particularly with young people.