Stones painted to resemble eyes have been distributed across the beaches of Southend, to highlight the number of people in the borough who have been trained to “see the signs” of child exploitation.
Over 1,500 people across the borough have been trained to spot the signs of child exploitation and are now trained to look out for possible county lines activity.
Each painted stone represents a local person who is now actively looking out for our children.
Taxi drivers, hotel staff, social workers, charity workers and many other local people have undertaken the training and are reporting anything they see that could mean a child is being exploited or involved in county lines.
The rocks have been distributed across the beaches in recognition of Child Exploitation Awareness Day, which took place on March 18. Pupils from St. Thomas More High School, Shoeburyness High School, Greenways Primary School and Bournemouth Park Academy painted the stones in recognition of the community looking out for all our children.
‘County lines’ is a term used when criminal gangs from big cities expand their operations to smaller towns, often using violence to drive out local drug dealers and exploiting children and vulnerable people to sell drugs.
If you find one of the eye stones on a beach, please take a picture and share it on social media, tagging Southend Council to let them know and using the hashtag #SeeTheSignsSOS.
Cllr Anne Jones, cabinet member for children and learning said: “We know that people’s minds are rightly focussed on other international and national issues at the moment, but preventing child exploitation at all times is something that we prioritise in Southend-on-Sea.
“These stones are a visual reminder of the amount of varied professionals we have trained to see the signs and who know how to report any suspicions they have about potential child exploitation or county lines activity.
“If you are able to get outdoors at this time and come across one, please share a picture of it on your social media and help to spread the message that this type of crime will not be tolerated in our town”.
For more information about county lines and how children are exploited by such drug gangs, please see www.SeeTheSigns.org.uk. Information about any suspicion you may have of county lines activity can also be posted here, completely anonymously.