HAMPSHIRE police have launched a campaign which aims to prevent thousands of young people being abused.

The child sexual exploitation campaign urges parents, young people, teachers, social workers and other professionals working with potential victims to spot the signs of when children and teenagers are being taken advantage of.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse in which children are sexually exploited for money, power or status.

Yet police admit they do not know the scale of the problem in the county. Senior officers say they are currently working on a way to record it accurately.

Often the victims are tricked into believing they’re in a loving, consensual relationship and are invited to parties where they are given drugs and alcohol.

Striking artwork created for the campaign by illustrator Roma-May Daly based on the concept of Alice in Wonderland, will be shown on billboards and at bus stations, train stations and in shopping centres across the county to raise awareness of CSE.

Assistant Chief Constable Sara Glen, pictured inset, said the issue was identified as the number one force priority in the summer of 2015.

She said: “Child sexual exploitation is such an important issue affecting more young people than many of us realise. We understand that a measure of a civilised society is its ability to protect the most vulnerable.

“Our new campaign aims to speak to people who have regular contact with victims of CSE to encourage them to identify the signs."

“In most cases these people are the key to getting help for victims, as those wrapped up in the world of CSE are often unable to refuse to admit there is an issue."

The initiative has been praised by council chiefs, including cabinet member for children’s social care at Hampshire County Council Keith Mans.

Cllr Mans said: “Anything that helps young people recognise that all may not be what it seems and to be vigilant has to be a positive move.”

The campaign will include an online blog which called Alice’s Diary blog, which is based on the experiences of victims.

There will be a live twitter chat this evening from 8pm to 9pm. G with people being able to get involved by using the hashtag #CSEHelpMe.

n Visit alicesdiary.org. If you think someone is showing signs of being exploited, contact police on 101 quoting #CSEHelpMe.

The signs of child sexual exploitation:

• A child/teenager who goes missing, staying out late or skipping school

• Changes to mood

• Unexplained gifts

• Being involved with unusual characters, not from their group of friends

• Being controlled by someone else Factfile

• 78% of victims in the county are aged 13-17 years-old

• 46% are ‘peer and peer’ where the offender is also under the age of 18, and 34% are offenders aged between 18-21 years old

• The main offline CSE themes in Hampshire offline are peer-to-peer exploitation which happens with large groups of friends/associates.

• The boyfriend model – where victims believe they are in a relationship someone but are being exploited by means of sexual favours.

• The party model involves house parties where older males prey on vulnerable females