Wiganers have reported dozens of child kidnappings over the past three years, worrying figures reveal.
Data released by Greater Manchester Police following a Freedom of Information request highlights 53 cases of abducted youngsters which have been reported to officers since 2015.
In 2018 alone, 10 children were reported as snatched up until November and December - which were not covered by the statistics.
The figures show a peak in reported abductions in September last year, where six reports were made to officers in the month. According to the GMP report, the figures include both parental and abduction by “other persons”.
Parental abduction is a crime which refers to anyone “connected with a child” under the age of 16 who “takes or sends” the child out of the country without appropriate consent.
“Connected with” includes parents or guardians with a residence order or custody of the child.
In order to take or send a child from the country legally, the individual must have consent of the mother or father or legal guardian. Non-parental child abduction is a criminal offence for “other persons” to “take or detain” a child under the age of 16 without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.
The term “other persons” refers to anyone other than the child’s parent, guardian or a person with parental responsibility for the child.
The charity Action Against Abduction works to inform people on how to protect their children from abduction and kidnap.
Director Geoff Newiss said: “While many people might think child abductions are parental - so a parent not returning a child home to their primary care-giver - that only accounts for around a fifth of all abductions.
“The majority of child abductions will be committed by people that the child knows. So for example, if a child is asked by the father of a friend to get into their car, they might not see that as stranger danger.
“You only have to think of April Jones or Holly and Jessica to realise that the people abducting children are often members of the community that the child likely knows.
“Teaching children simply to avoid strangers doesn’t work. Most strangers will help rather than harm children. Conversely, it is often people known to children that pose the greatest threat.
“We’ve launched a campaign called Clever Never Goes, to move the focus away from strangers and instead teach children to recognise when someone - anyone - is asking them to go with them.
“Other forms of child abduction include online exploitation. If a child has been groomed online and the groomer asks the child to meet them in a location, that would be classed as abduction.”
To find out more about the “Clever never goes” campaign visit http://www.actionagainstabduction.org/clever-never-goes/