Watch for signs of sexual abuse
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.