Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) laid out the organisation’s vision for improving child protection at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) Friday morning, 21 October.
The MPS are developing plans to bring together teams that investigate domestic abuse, sexual offences, and child abuse to ensure there is a more integrated approach to investigations that overlap to create a better service for the victim and a more efficient approach for the MPS.
More than 15,000 child abuse investigations have been carried out by the MPS over the last 12 months, including 2,938 investigations into child sexual abuse.
AC Hewitt, who has responsibility for local policing, talked about the “extraordinary growth in confidence” to report sexual abuse. He described how the MPS is working with other agencies to respond to the changing landscape for protecting children.
In 2015, the government declared child sexual exploitation (CSE) a ‘national threat’. A report from the Children’s Commissioner called for urgent action to improve prevention and early identification, and concluded that only one in eight children who are abused are identified.
During the speech, the MPS released a series of figures demonstrating the scale of the challenge of protecting children in London. At any one time, more than 8,000 children are on a protection plan in London, and at risk of violence or abuse. Over the past year, 25,000 children went missing, over 63,000 children were victims of crime and more than 72,000 were suspected of a crime.
Changes to how officers investigate cases that include multiple crimes will build closer links between local policing and specialist officers, resulting in a better response to the “awesome responsibility” that officers carry in protecting children who are at risk.
For example, a third of rapes reported are in a domestic setting but domestic abuse and rape are investigated by separate teams. If there are children in the family then the possibility of child abuse would be looked at by another different team. Whilst there are links, bringing the investigations together would mean the victim has one point of contact, improving their experience as well as an increasing efficiency.
AC Hewitt also issued a call to action to other agencies with a responsibility to safeguard children, stating that the police alone cannot tackle the social pressures that are driving abuse and violence.
This event followed the RSA’s landmark report ‘Safer together: policing a global city in 2020’ which was launched by the Commissioner in 2015. This identified a variety of threats to London, including terrorism, cyber-crime and the risk in sexual offending. It called on the MPS and local authorities to work more closely together on a ‘shared mission’ to keep the public safe.
AC Hewitt said:
“Policing is just part of a collaborative effort to protect children, in which social services, schools, the NHS and the Probation Service all play their part. We work well together but we must be better and more consistent within and between organizations.
“This new approach will get the best out of the Met’s specialist detectives, leaders in their fields at home and abroad. By embedding them in our local policing teams, all our communities will feel the benefit.”
Commenting on today’s event, Anthony Painter, Director of the RSA Action and Research Centre, said:
“The RSA’s Safer Together report set out how institutional change might help the Met serve Londoners more effectively. Across public services, there is an increasing realisation that traditional siloed methods no longer work. When confronted with complex social issues or crime, we have to find practical ways of responding based on close working and a sense of common agenda.
“It is particularly pleasing that the Met has seized this challenge and is adopting a shared mission approach to the vulnerability, safeguarding, child protection and early intervention agendas. London is safer when services, communities and citizens act together.”