QI’m very disappointed that you decided to take the police off the street. People, parents, need a little bit of reassurance by seeing uniformed police around the schools.
Insp Case: My assessment of it was that you are a bit sneaky with it. Plain clothes officers are useful to catch those involved in incidents such as this.
I didn’t want the children to be seeing uniformed officers near their school as they arrived and left, but I can assure you that plain clothes officers have been actively working on the case.
QI understand the different approach, which is in some way ‘slowly, slowly catchy monkey’, but do you have the resources to respond quickly if you are given information from a credible source?
Insp Case: Our response policy is dictated by head quarters. We have to be there within 16 minutes if it’s an emergency, one hour for a non-emergency and if it’s deemed non-serious people are advised to make an appointment with the neighbourhood policing team.
So, yes if it’s an emergency we will respond quickly.
QParents don’t know who the plain clothes officers are, how are we not supposed to be suspicious of them?
Insp Case: I can assure you that plain clothes officers wouldn’t be standing around school gates or driving around in cars nearby.
QAre there any particular descriptions that we should be looking out for?
DI Dodd: We have examined all the data, including having an analyst look closely at it, and we can not identify a pattern.
The cars involved have included small Ford cars, such as Fiestas, but descriptions of people have varied.
What I can say is that all the children have so far behave appropriately, they haven’t engaged and have reported the incidents to their parents.
CI Westgate: No child has been physically approached, there have been no reports of that at all.
QHas it just been on weekdays, or has it been weekends too. I’m too frightened to let my children out at any time now.
DI Dodd: There is no pattern, but the most common day seems to be Tuesday but yes it is happening at the weekend too.
But please, please don’t be alarmed.
QWhat incidents are we actually talking about, which schools have been involved and how many?
DI Dodd: We are most concerned about the incidents when the occupants asked the children to get in the car.
There have been a small number of incidents at schools but they have been investigated and eliminated.
One child has reported about being approached for a second time but has so far refused to cooperate with us, which is very frustrating from our point of view.
QPlain clothes officers don’t reassure me, I want officers near the schools to reassure me and my daughter. How can a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) on a bike chase an organised gang targeting children?
Insp Case: There is no evidence at all to support the idea of an organised gang behind this.
I think my response at the time was proportionate to the threat perceived
QOut of these 25 incidents how many of them are credible, I feel like all I know is based on rumours and I need to know if I need to be really concerned?
DI Dodd: About three of them we are concerned about, you don’t need to be really, really worried.
The driver behind this meeting is wanting to give you information, it’s not the threat that your child might be taken off the street tomorrow.
QThis has been going on since February, are you any closer to getting the culprit?
DI Dodd: Yes and no. We’ve identified ‘culprits’ in a number of the less serious incidents and have been able to resolve those.
We have also contacted individuals on the Sex Offenders Register and other individuals who we are also happy to eliminate them from our enquiries.
QI live in Elton and we received a letter from the school 48 hours after a teenage girl was approached. Why the delay of 48 hours? By then I’d already sent my daughter to school by herself?
DI Dodd: I’m not aware of that incident, that’s not to say it didn’t happen but sometimes incidents are being reported up to two days later.
Parent responds: It was immediately reported to the police. I wouldn’t have sent my daughter on her own had I known earlier.
DI Dodd: Obviously there has been a delay in that information getting out and that’s something we can work with the schools on. Maybe something like local radio would speed that process up.
QWhen is this going to be considered dangerous, when a child is taken off the street?
DI Dodd: That’s not what we want at all, that would be horrendous for everyone.
QWhat has been the average age of the children involved, have there been more girls than boys?
DI Dodd: There really isn’t a pattern but around 13 years old. Boys or girls don’t seem to be at more risk.
QWith all the different descriptions of people involved, doesn’t that make you think it could be a gang?
DI Dodd: We would never discount it but it’s not something are we concerned about, there is no evidence to support it.
QIf you had kids in Ellesmere Port, would you let them play out at the moment?
Insp Case: What we are talking about is a few serious reported incidents. Three that we are concerned about.
So yes, if my children lived in Ellesmere Port I would let them play out.