Sunday 14 April 2024
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Volunteer officers working to foil sexual predators in Nottinghamshire

A volunteer police officer has explained how she is working to keep vulnerable young people out of the hands of sexual predators.

Special Constable Rachel Stringfellow has been serving with Nottinghamshire Police for the last two years and gives around 30 hours a month in addition to working full-time and caring for her daughter.

Like all specials she has full powers of arrest but that’s where the similarities end.

Whilst the majority of her volunteer colleagues across the country focus on traditional frontline duties like events and night-time economy policing, SC Stringfellow serves alongside a specialist team of public protection officers working to stop the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

A an integral part of the Child Sexual Exploitation Investigation Unit she and her colleague Special Constable Ollie Hayes make up a smaller disruption unit charged with making life as difficult as possible for offenders.

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PC Stringfellow also undertakes patrols in exploitation hotspots such as car parks, train stations, cinemas, parks, nature reserves and hotels – building strong and trusting relationships with business owners and young people alike.

She also disrupts abuse by interacting with vulnerable children and ensuring that known and suspected offenders are complying with all the bail and other restrictions place upon them by the courts.

She explained: “I had always thought about going into the police but for me life took a different course. I had a daughter when I was quite young and the timing just wasn’t right for me to join. Being a special constable allows me to serve my community whilst looking after my daughter and continuing in a day job that I love.

“I think most people have a certain image in their mind of what a special constable does – the traditional roles of keeping order on a Saturday night in town. While I really don’t mind the rough and tumble side of things I think it’s important for people to realise that there are other roles available to specials too.

“I have a teenage daughter of my own and get a huge amount of satisfaction knowing that I am working to protect children of a similar age from the very small minority of people who seek to exploit them. Sometimes that can include taking firm action against offenders, and on other occasions it’s more about relationship building, getting across our message and just being visible in areas where these offences are known to happen.”

In recent months SC Stringfellow has arrested a woman suspected of soliciting girls for sex, secured a child abduction warning notice (CAWN) to stop a man from having any further contact with a 14-year-old girl, and seized the car of a man suspected of using vulnerable young people to traffic drugs.

Detective Chief Inspector Pete Quinn, Nottinghamshire Police lead for child protection, said: “Our Child Sexual Exploitation Disruption Team (CSEDT) draws on the skills and expertise of special constables to create a localised response to CSE. We established this at a time when the organisation was struggling to recruit and retain special constables in the numbers we once had. Feedback indicated that we were missing out on recruiting talented people who did not want to serve their communities in the ways typically associated with specials (night-time economy, sporting events). Some specials who were already serving felt stifled by a lack of opportunity to develop and use their skills in different areas.”

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