YOUNG victims have not had their voices heard, the area’s top police officer has said.
Hampshire police’s chief constable Andy Marsh said the force is making training better to improve how officers work with children.
He was speaking in Highbury College at a public meeting about young people, crime and the police with the police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes.
He said: ‘Too often young people have been seen as part of the problem and too often young victims have not been heard.
‘That’s why we are where we are with the shocking stories about child sexual exploitation.’
Mr Marsh was referring to cases nationally.
But he told the near 100-strong audience that the force will soon bring in young people to courses at its Netley training headquarters.
He said: ‘We’ve got plans to bring in young people for courses to give officers direct experience of working with young people.’
The Compass meeting, where Mr Hayes quizzes Mr Marsh as part of his role in holding the chief constable to account, also heard between 5,500 to 6,000 people go missing each year in Hampshire.
Half of those repeatedly go missing and almost all are found, Mr Marsh said, adding that one went missing about 30 or 31 times alone.
His comment on missing people came as he was asked about the problems of police labelling children as ‘trouble’.
He said: ‘If a young person is presenting themselves in circumstances they are committing crime, anti-social behaviour or going missing, it’s not a giant leap how that police officer might consider that person as a problem.
‘We’re aware that young people committing crime, going missing or involved in anti-social behaviour will almost certainly be experiencing other problems in their life.’
Police are now no longer going into schools but a member of a Safer Neighbourhood team is assigned to each school in the area.
Officers are also expected to tackle local gang issues by getting to know youngsters.
Mr Marsh said: ‘I expect them to understand and know about local problems and issues, they have to get in amongst them.’