A POLICE operation in the town centre at the weekend was aimed at safeguarding the town’s most vulnerable.

As part of the operation held on Sunday, neighbourhood policing teams and roads policing officers came together alongside dog handlers, Barnsley Council and community groups to safeguard those at risk through hotspot patrols and to provide early intervention to those who could be affected.

Barnsley town centre was the main area of focus, with teams stopping and speaking with children and young people who congregate around the Interchange.

Officers spoke to 86 children and seven adults who were identified as being vulnerable, and safeguarding referrals and intelligence has been submitted.

A police spokesperson said: "Criminals have no boundaries when committing crime and will exploit those most vulnerable in our communities for personal gain.

"To aid the dedication of our officers and partners’ daily hard work to protect children and adults, a district-wide operation has been delivered leading to the protection of over 80 children."

Seven addresses were visited where officers believe the residents could be at risk of cuckooing; whereby those involved in drug dealing use the address to carry out their deals, store and move drugs. Criminals will often use violence and intimidation to get the occupier to comply.

Further enforcement while on patrol included two teenagers being arrested on suspicion of affray and theft and a vehicle seized for being used in crime. Four young people were also referred to support services for substance misuse.

"We are stronger with our communities’ help and as part of the day officers held a stall to empower our communities to spot the signs of exploitation, modern day slavery and trafficking."

Do you know the signs?

Barnsley Sergeant Emma Bloodworth said: “Every child deserves a happy and safe childhood free from harm or abuse. Sadly, for some children this isn’t the case, and for many reasons they are vulnerable to criminals exploiting them wherever they can, whether this be in a sexual way or by getting them involved in drug supply or organised crime.

“Sometimes children caught up in this world do not realise they are a victim and this is why it is so important that bystanders speak up and report it. I am keen that people in and around Barnsley recognise the signs of child exploitation and report this to us. Our priority is making sure that those exposed to exploitation, criminality and harm are offered the support and safeguarding that they need.

“The protection of our children and young people is at the heart of everything we do.”