New campaign launched to tackle ‘sexting’ in West Yorkshire

Encouraging others to send sexually explicit images is an offence
Encouraging others to send sexually explicit images is an offence

Young people are being warned of the dangers of sharing sexual images in a new campaign to combat a growing ‘sexting’ problem in West Yorkshire.

West Yorkshire Police and partners are advising under 16s of the negative impact either requesting or sharing sexual images can have on their lives and their futures, following increased reporting of the offence.

The new ‘Think before you send’ campaign features advice for victims and messages warning those who request ‘sexual images’ that they are potentially committing criminal offences.

Councils in Wakefield, Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale and Leeds Safeguarding Children Board are supporting the campaign together with Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns Williamson and the Crimestoppers charity.

Police investigated 28 ‘sexting’ style offences reported between March 2014 and April 2015, all of which involved offenders and victims under 16.

Of those, 22 were reported in 2015 with a number of the offences involving social media applications.

To help combat the issue, authorities have launched a new webpage featuring help and advice for those being pressured to send explicit sexual images.

The webpage can be found at www.westyorkshire.police.uk/sexting

Specific posters and postcards have also been designed to be distributed amongst youth and community groups for the campaign which has been developed with young people from the Student LSCB in Leeds.

To support it, officers will also be working with local authority colleagues to warn young people about sexting at events and engagements, and then in schools from September onwards.

Detective Chief Inspector Sue Jenkinson of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Sexting’ is an activity we have become increasingly aware of amongst young people and many may not realise that what they are doing is illegal or that it may be potentially harmful to them in the future.

“Specialist investigators trained in Safeguarding and Child protection deal with each report on a case by case basis based on vulnerability and risk, taking in to account any age difference, repeat offending and repeat victims before deciding on an appropriate course of action.

“All reports are also investigated within a wider safeguarding framework with partners to try and address causes for the behaviour.

“Those who encourage people under 16 to take sexually explicit pictures of themselves should be under no illusion though that what they are doing is a criminal offence which will be investigated.

“This could lead to you getting into trouble with the police, affect your chances of getting a job and even limit the countries that you can travel to.”

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “It is very important that young people recognise the risks of ‘sexting’ and the dangers associated with it.

“That is why I have used money taken from criminals and invested it into this campaign to make sure it reaches the right people and has the maximum impact.

“The police cannot and must not work in isolation to deal with ‘sexting’ and a number of key partners from across West Yorkshire have come together to launch this campaign to which I give my whole-hearted support.”

DCI Jenkinson added that officers had launched the new campaign to raise awareness among potential victims and make them aware no-one had the right to pressure them into making indecent photos.

She added: “Any image of yourself that you send, can and might be shared by the person you sent it to, or even used for blackmail. Remember, once you press send you press send, ‘you can’t undo and can’t go back.’

“I would urge teenagers to think about when someone might ask you to send a naked or indecent image.

“If someone is trying to or has forced you to send a sexual image of yourself to them you should call police on 101 and tell someone you can trust. This could be a parent or carer, teacher or family member. You may feel uncomfortable about telling your parents but they will need to know so that they can help and support you.

“You can call also call Childline free on 0800 1111 and this number won’t appear on a telephone bill. Available 24 hours a day.

To make a report click on the following link and follow the instructions: www.ceop.police.uk/ceop-report/

Mark Burns-Williamson, added: “It is very important that young people recognise the risks of ‘sexting’ and the dangers associated with it.

“That is why I have used money taken from criminals and invested it into this campaign to make sure it reaches the right people and has the maximum impact.

“The police cannot and must not work in isolation to deal with ‘sexting’ and a number of key partners from across West Yorkshire have come together to launch this campaign to which I give my whole-hearted support.”