VULNERABLE youngsters are being targeted by groups of men in a Coventry park, a report has revealed.
Edgwick Park in Foleshill is being used by groups to provide children – mostly girls – with alcohol and drugs before engaging in and attempting to engage in sexual activity with them.
The joint report, by West Midlands Police and Coventry City Council, follows reports that two young girls were raped at an address in North Coventry in June 2015, after meeting men in the park.
The report states: “This incident became the trigger of a significant amount of multi-agency work, aimed at the early identification and diversion of vulnerable young people using the park, as well as to create a hostile environment within which offenders / potential offenders can operate.”
In response to the report, WMP and the council plan to make the Edgwick Park subject to Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).
The order will enable police to break up or approach groups of more than two people from meeting in the park if their behaviour warrants cause for concern.
Jayne McHale, headteacher of Edgwick Community Primary School which backs onto the park, said staff had witnessed large groups of men drinking and smoking cannabis, urinating against the school fence, and trying to talk to young pupils through the fence.
Ms McHale also said sports lessons and after-school clubs are often abandoned because of abuse from men in the park, who have also tried to scale the fence.
Inspector Hasson Shigdar, North East Constituency Inspector for West Midlands Police, said: “We have concerns about some behaviour in the park and are very keen to see an order covering Edgwick Park.
“An order will mean that the police and other authorities have extra powers to approach groups of people where there are concerns.
“We will only be using the order where we observe activities that have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of local people. This includes cases of child sexual exploitation.
“We know that the vast majority of people are responsible park users and we do not intend to restrict their enjoyment of the park.”
Echoing Insp Shigdar’s sentiments, the Council’s child sexual exploitation team said it is vital that people who are involved in child sexual exploitation know that they are under the spotlight.
A consultation on the proposed PSPO in Edgwick Park is now underway, with residents being urged to have their say by visiting www.coventry.gov.uk/edgwickparkpspo before March 29.
A one-stop website for information, help and advice for young people, parents and carers, professionals and schools has been put together at www.seeme-hearme.org.uk as part of a wider regional campaign on CSE.
To report any CSE concerns, call the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency or Coventry Social Care on 024 7678 8555 or out of hours on 024 7683 2222.
Children and young people can call or text confidentially for FREE 24/7 on the national helpline 116 000.