Police across Sussex are working with hotels and boarding houses in a project to help keep young people safe.
Now that life is returning to normal, Sussex Police have warned there is an ‘increase risk of perpetrators targeting students, looking to exploit them now that school children are no longer staying at home’.
‘Operation Makesafe’ is a national project looking to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.
The initiative focuses on making sure that people working in the hospitality industry are aware of the early warning signs of child exploitation and can report concerns to the police.
From October 18 officers have started a programme of engagement with local hotels and B&Bs, visiting locations and interacting with staff and management, and distributing briefing material that explains what they should be alert for and how to report it.
Detective chief inspector Mick Richards of Sussex Police said, “Child Exploitation takes on many different forms and it is everyone’s collective responsibility to help combat it. A better understanding of exploitation and risks will provide key opportunities to stop children becoming victims of exploitation. The disruption and prosecution of perpetrators is key in tackling exploitation.
“Victims of child criminal exploitation are typically male, aged 15 to 16 and living in urban areas. Perpetrators are in their late teens and involved in drug supply; some have been exploited as children themselves.
“Identified victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation continue to be predominantly female and are most frequently aged 13 to 15 although the percentage of male victims is slowly rising. Perpetrators are younger males under 30.
“Tackling exploitation and increasing the safety of women and girls in our community is a key priority area for us. Whilst Operation Makesafe is designed to respond to a specific national concern, there is no reason to believe that Sussex is significantly affected by this type of offending within the hotel and leisure industry at present. However it would be wrong to think it cannot and does not happen. This project will continue over time to help establish trusting relationships allowing for the sharing of information.
“Whilst the initial stages focus on working with the hotel and B&B sectors, this will evolve over time, working in partnership to include Air BnBs, licenced taxi services and the wider night time economy.”
Katy Bourne, police and crime commissioner for Sussex, said, “I am really encouraged by the positive and helpful response of the hospitality sector collaborating with the Op Makesafe campaign led by DCI Mick Richards.
“We need to shut down all opportunities for the sexual exploitation of children and women.”
For further information about Operation Makesafe see the Sussex Police website, which includes the briefing material being distributed to the leisure industry.
If you’re concerned about someone’s welfare and think they may be being exploited, please report it to police online or call 101.
You can also contact independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via crimestoppers-uk.org.
In an emergency always call 999.