Police launch operation to combat child exploitation in Westminster hotels

Operation Make Safe has been launched today

Operation Make Safe has been launched today - Credit: Archant

Specialist officers from Metropolitan police are co-opting staff from hotels and pubs across Westminster to launch a major operation to combat child sexual exploitation.

Officers from Westminster Council and dozens of staff gathered at the Radisson Blu hotel in Portman Square this morning to launch ‘Operation Make Safe’, which offers training to hotels and hospitality businesses in spotting and reporting child sexual exploitation.

There were 53 reported cases of child sexual exploitation in the borough last year.

Addressing 15 managers at the Radisson hotel, Sergeant Richard Bunch, who is leading the roll-out of vigilance training to businesses said: “Operation Make Safe is all about people having the courage to pick up the phone, dial 101 to make a real difference to a child’s life. Seventy per cent of the calls we receive lead to positive lines of enquiry.”

“This is the most grotesque form of offending you could think of; don’t just dismiss it. If you see something report it. How would you feel if you found out something had happened and didn’t report it?”

“There are 12,500 businesses in Westminster alone. You are our eyes and ears. Together we can make a difference and save young people from harm.”

The country-wide operation, set up in the wake of the exposure of paedophile rings in Rotheram, will now be rolled out across Westminster to tackle abuse and exploitation that goes unreported in businesses across the borough.

Most Read

As part of the training, staff in hotels, pubs, clubs and taxi hire firms will receive training in the tell-tale signs of child sexual exploitation.

During the briefing, staff were advised to look out for “overly made up” young guests arriving without luggage with much older people and possibly speaking different languages to their ‘boyfriends’ or ‘girlfriends’ while visiting rooms at different intervals.

Staff were told they should also be on the look out for alcohol being served to minors, evidence of drug use or people trying to pay with cash and with false names. Andrew Christie, who oversees child protection operations at Westminster Council said: “I think any local area should be concerned about this, we have a large concentration of hotels and numbers of vulnerable children here, but these children are not just Westminster residents.”

Anyone who suspects child sexual exploitation should call 101 and quote “Operation Make Safe.”

Other major hotel chains including Marriot are expected to undertake Make Safe training over the coming months.

Businesses who would like to participate in the Met Police accredited Operation Make Safe scheme should contact Sergeant Richard Bunch on 0207 6413347.