More than 5,000 people in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland have backed a campaign to stop children being sexually abused and exploited.
Among those who have given their support are the parents of Measham teenager Kayleigh Haywood who was groomed online over 13 days before being raped and murdered last year.
The campaign is called CEASE, the Commitment to Eradicate Abuse and Sexual Exploitation of children and young people, and was launched in February by Leicestershire Police and Leicestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner.
It aims to raise greater public awareness of the crime and invites people to sign a pledge committing to do all they can to spot the signs children may be being abused or exploited and to report their concerns.
In the six months since its launch, a total of 5,285 children and adults have signed the pledge, including Stephanie Haywood and Martin Whitby.
Other signatories include former England football team captain and Leicester City legend Gary Lineker, Bend it Like Beckham actress Parminder Nagra, BBC Apprentice star Melody Houssaini and Leicester Tigers Players Tom Croft, Sam Harrison, Freddie Burns and Oli Bryant.
At the beginning of the campaign people pledged their support by completing an online form via the force’s website. Since then, four other ways have been introduced allowing the public to support the campaign, including the launch of a text service and hand-shaped cards which people can sign.
Stephanie Haywood said: “Our beautiful daughter was taken from us in the most horrific way as a result of being groomed online and we would not want any other family to suffer the heartbreak and pain that dominates our lives every single day.
“We would urge every adult and child to back this campaign. Society needs to be far more aware of the dangers of grooming, abuse and exploitation and the signs that this may be happening. Please sign the CEASE pledge and do what you can to stop this happening.”
There are five ways in which people can support CEASE:
*Sign the online pledge;
*Add the CEASE twibbon to your social media profile;
*Text CEASE to 87007 (texts will be charged at your standard local rate);
*Sign a CEASE hand (available at police stations, public events and from your local neighbourhood beat team);
*Send a CEASE hand selfie to LeicsPolice via Snapchat.