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16 April 2015, 05:41
Durham Police are the first force in the country to give officers new intervention training with the aim of reducing child sexual exploitation.
The programme was developed in the US by the Texas Rangers with the expert involvement of Dr Joe Sullivan, an international expert who has assisted detectives on the Madeline McCann disappearance and the murder of April Jones.
In a UK-first, the force has put 400 frontline officers through the Intervene to Protect a Child (IPC) programme which teaches non-specialists certain behavioural signs that someone might be a child abuser.
Certain explicit tattoos, particular clothing and even books may be indicative of someone who has a sexual interest in children.
Dr Sullivan did not wish to give more specific details about those indicators to the general public.
Officers have been trained to look for behavioural signs which may prompt them to consider questioning an individual about their relationship with a child in their care even if that individual had been spoken to for a different reason.
Within two weeks of receiving his training, PCSO Adam Grundy, 28, who is based in south Durham, put his new knowledge into effect and took steps to protect a girl under five who was at risk.
Mr Grundy was concerned about a man in his 80s who he regularly saw, when he spotted a condom and a Viagra tablet in his property during a routine call.
The PCSO made further investigations which established the man, who had a history of sexual offending against children, was visited by a woman with a young child. He contacted Social Services and the man was barred from seeing the child.
Mr Grundy said:
"This guy was being very evasive with me when normally he would engage. He was very stand-offish and wanted me to leave.
His personality had completely changed and that was something I referred back to in my training.''
Durham Constabulary's Chief Constable Mike Barton was delighted with the quick results of the training, which has also been completed by another 160 public sector workers including teachers, fire officers and health workers.
"We are giving them the confidence to recognise, if people wear certain clothing, if people have certain tattoos, if people behave in a certain way, that might be an indication.
When you add these things together, that should give them the confidence to a frontline member of staff to do a bit more digging.''
Dr Sullivan said his knowledge of the hidden behavioural signs of paedophiles came from interviewing thousands of perpetrators.
"I have learned from that they have had to say, what are the key indicators that someone who may not have that level of knowledge may not pick up on.
This training is about targeting frontline staff who are not working in the arena of child sexual exploitation.''
He said staff were also trained to look out for signs in children who may be being abused.
"What has been gratifying is hearing the feedback from the audience and people saying I wish I'd had this training six months ago because I know I missed an indicator that something was going badly wrong and I didn't have the confidence to do something about it.''