Police swooped on a suspected paedophile on the first day of a county-wide crackdown on child sex exploitation.
But officers were more concerned with advising than arresting as the biggest operation of its kind swung into action across Lancashire yesterday.
Det Sgt Alex Gornall, of Preston CID’s public protection unit, said: “We managed to talk to a lot of people who work with youngsters and day one went very well.
“It’s about getting the message out there to as many people as we can, alerting them to the warning signs of child sex exploitation and what to do if they suspect a child is at risk. Everyone we talked to was very receptive and so I think we can say it was a success.”
DS Gornall and her team met sport and health managers at Fulwood Leisure Centre, and then toured taxi ranks and the city’s bus station, handing out leaflets and cards listing the danger signals.
Today the Preston officers will move on to the railway station, late night stores and shopping malls where youngsters congregate. And for the rest of the week, they will target takeaways, hotels and known “hotspots” for child exploitation and grooming.
They will also hold awareness sessions for parents, schools and clubs and show how the Operation Nightsafe works across the county.
DS Gornall said: “We want to reach as many people in as many walks of life as possible to get this message across.
“A lot of people are reluctant to get involved or to interfere, even if they suspect something. But it is everyone’s responsibility to protect children. This exercise is about trying to raise awareness so we can all make a difference.”