Watch for signs of sex­ual abuse

Surrey Advertiser - - Front Page -

SINCE an op­er­a­tion to tackle child sex­ual ex­ploita­tion (CSE) was launched in March 2017, Sur­rey Po­lice has re­ceived more than 20 re­fer­rals from lo­cal busi­nesses and mem­bers of the pub­lic in the county.

Op­er­a­tion Make­safe is an ini­tia­tive fo­cused on en­sur­ing peo­ple work­ing in the busi­ness sec­tor are aware of the early signs of CSE, in­clud­ing self-harm­ing and ‘in­ap­pro­pri­ate’ be­hav­iour.

Ac­cord­ing to the force, CSE is the sex­ual abuse of a young per­son in­volv­ing ex­ploita­tive sit­u­a­tions and re­la­tion­ships. The abuse of­ten takes place in ex­change for money, al­co­hol or gifts.

Lo­cal and na­tional ev­i­dence has found that CSE can take place in ho­tels, pubs, cafés and places li­cenced to sell al­co­hol.

Even though Sur­rey Po­lice said it has re­ceived 23 calls since the op­er­a­tion be­gan, de­tec­tive su­per­in­ten­dent Juliet Parker con­fessed that it is ‘re­ally dif­fi­cult’ to give an ac­cu­rate fig­ure.

De­tec­tive Parker said: “It is not easy to put a spe­cific num­ber on it be­cause CSE is an um­brella term for a num­ber of dif­fer­ent of­fences, in­clud­ing on­line groom­ing.

When asked how busi­nesses in Sur­rey can spot signs of CSE, Det. Parker said: “If per­haps an older man with a younger girl or boy are check­ing in to an ho­tel room with one dou­ble bed.

“I ask peo­ple to go with their gut feel­ing, if some­thing does not feel right, re­port it.”

In a state­ment, Trav­elodge said the ho­tel chain takes the re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect chil­dren and vul­ner­a­ble young peo­ple ‘ex­tremely se­ri­ously’.

A spokesman con­tin­ued: “Along with other ho­tels within the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, our ho­tel teams are trained based on cur­rent na­tional guide­lines from the NSPCC, the po­lice and fol­low best prac­tise based on the find­ings from Op­er­a­tion Make­safe.”

But spot­ting signs of CSE can be ‘quite dif­fi­cult’, Det. Parker said. In April 2017, for in­stance, a wid­ower was re­ported to the po­lice af­ter he checked into a Trav­elodge in Chert­sey with his 13-year-old daugh­ter.

Even though the fa­ther was not ar­rested, Det. Parker ar­gued that ‘it is bet­ter to check and make sure the child is safe’.

“There is no harm done even if the per­son is com­pletely in­no­cent,” she added. “The most im­por­tant thing is to keep our chil­dren safe.”

The force has urged ‘any­one who pro­vides a ser­vice’ in Sur­rey to make CSE train­ing a pri­or­ity. Visit www. sur­rey.po­lice.uk/ad­vice for free train­ing ma­te­ri­als.

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