A FILM about the dangers of online grooming has led to an increase in people coming forward for help and advice.

A year after Friend Request was released by Gloucestershire Police, the number of referrals in connection with child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Gloucestershire has risen from 288 in 2014 to 504 in 2015 – an increase of 75 per cent.

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Bean, of Gloucestershire Public Protection Bureau, said: “The ‘early identification & intervention’ message is exactly what we set out to achieve when we started planning the film.

"It’s meant that people are far more aware of the signs and are far more likely to report their concerns at an early stage.

“The more ‘at risk’ children we are aware of, the more multi-agency measures and interventions we can put in place and hopefully safeguard them before they actually become victims of crime.”

Friend Request tells of the experiences of a number of local people: a parent whose daughter was groomed through social media and extracts from a poem written by a victim who was exploited for sex.

Financed by Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl, it was distributed to every school in Gloucestershire.

Mr Surl said: “It’s impossible to measure exactly how many people have actually seen it, but certainly it’s in the thousands rather than the hundreds.

“It’s had nearly 1200 hits on YouTube, but we’ve also distributed lots of hard copies on DVD.

"It’s certainly gone much wider than secondary schools, and we’ve had a lot of requests for copies from the voluntary & community sector.

“It’s also plugged at the various talks we give to a wide variety of audiences like community paediatricians, local councillors, housing associations etc.”

A half-day conference on the issue of Child Sexual Exploitation, delivered by Gloucestershire County Council, Gloucestershire Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, is being held on Friday, July 8 at Hatherley Manor Hotel.

More information about CSE and how to spot the signs, can be found on: http://www.gscb.org.uk/article/113263/What-is-child-exploitation