Passengers and staff at Leeds City Station are being called upon to help identify and protect vulnerable children on the rail network.
The plea was made today by the charity Railway Children and British Transport Police (BTP) as they mark National Missing Children’s Day.
We would rather look into all reports than not be told because someone is worried that they have been mistaken.Superintendent Richard Mann, British Transport Police
BTP figures reveal the city’s main station was among the top five locations for child safeguarding incidents across the network in 2016.
Andy McCullough, Railway Children’s director of policy and public affairs, said: “Public transport can be a hot spot for young people who have run away from home and are at risk of exploitation. Often the perception can be that a young person seen loitering, for example, is a source of trouble, when in reality they could be overwhelmingly vulnerable and in need of help.
“The training we have developed with BTP will help Leeds station staff, including retail workers, identify children who before might have gone unnoticed.”
Nearly 5,000 incidents were recorded across the network, a third of which involved children who had run away or gone missing.
There were 46 cases at Leeds involving children who had run away or gone missing, equal to Birmingham New Street and second only to Manchester Piccaddilly at 95.
Together with BTP, the charity has developed a programme through which almost 300 officers and station staff have been trained as Safeguarding on Transport champions.
Superintendent Richard Mann, from BTP, said: “Keeping young people safe is an absolute priority for us. We all have a responsibility to protect vulnerable children in our community.
“We are asking passengers and rail staff to be aware of young people who might need help. They may be travelling on their own, appear upset or with someone older than them who does not appear to be a relative.
“Even if the report turns out to be nothing, that’s ok. We would rather look into all reports than not be told because someone is worried that they have been mistaken.”
He stressed that officers were also there for any young person who thought they or someone they knew might need help.
“Whatever you need to tell us, you won’t be judged or blamed, and we have specially trained people at railways stations who can help,” he said.