An Avon and Somerset Police operation has tested the ability of hotels and B&Bs in spotting the signs of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
Plain clothes officers and police cadets have recently visited a number of hotels in Yeovil and Bristol as part of an exercise to raise awareness and educate staff on the signs of CSE.
CSE is a form of child abuse in which victims are manipulated or forced into taking part in sexual activity, often in return for attention, affection, money, drugs, alcohol or accommodation.
The officers, who work on Operation Topaz, attempted to book a room for a limited time without identification and requesting to pay in cash while accompanied by one of our volunteer cadets who were all aged between 14 and 16.
In Yeovil, out of the 13 hotels visited, 11 agreed to let out a room without asking any questions, whilst in Bristol, six out of the seven hotels visited also agreed to let out a room without asking any questions.
After being offered a room, the plain clothes officers made excuses and immediately cancelled booking a room and the hotel staff were then informed of the exercise.
Prior to this operation, the majority of the hotels had previously been offered training under Operation Makesafe – an awareness campaign developed by the Metropolitan Police Service which gives guidance and training to businesses around how to spot the signs of CSE and what action they should take – however only a few took part.
The hotels visited have now been offered training to increase their awareness and ability to spot the signs of CSE.
Detective Constable Tracy Sparrow from the Topaz Child Exploitation Team, said: “Avon and Somerset Police take Child Sexual Exploitation very seriously and this recent operation is just one of the many innovative and tenacious initiatives we are using to tackle the exploitation of children.
“It was disappointing to see the majority of the hotels we visited so willingly allow an adult accompanied by a child to book a room in the circumstances. We are looking forward to working closely with them to educate them on the signs of CSE and ensure they have the knowledge and confidence to report their suspicions to us.
“We know hotels and B&Bs are often used as places to exploit and abuse victims of CSE and it is the responsibility of premises license holders and their managers to make sure that suitable control measures are in place for the protection of children from harm.
“We are asking taxi drivers to also play their part in raising any CSE concerns they might have as we know in some instances, taxis are used to transport CSE perpetrators and their victims to hotels and B&Bs.”
Kelly Darch, Manager at Pen Mill Hotel, which was one of just two hotels in Yeovil that passed the test, commented: “We are pleased that our response to this recent exercise was correct. Attending the first Avon and Somerset Police course for Child Sexual Exploitation was a very worthwhile, informative and necessary exercise.
“We fully support the work of Avon & Somerset Police in this important area and welcome their efforts in raising awareness amongst local hoteliers of the role we have to play in spotting and reporting suspected Child Sexual Exploitation.”
Guidance for hotels and reception staff on how to spot the signs of CSE:
- Last minute/walk-in bookings, often late at night
- Guests only using a room for a few hours
- Guests refusing to provide identification when checking in
- Guests refusing to leave a credit card and insisting on paying in cash
- Guests with a local address booking a room
- Guests checking in with no luggage
- Guests requesting a room that is isolated
- A frequent guest of the hotel seen with different young people
- Bookings made in a different name to the person checking in
- Guests arriving and asking for a specific room number, but they don’t know the name in which the room is booked
- Visitors in the hotel who do not have a room booked
- Guests who don’t want rooms cleaned and/or use the ‘do not disturb’ sign
To report concerns to the police call 101 or complete a secure online reporting form at www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/report In an emergency, or if a child is in immediate danger, always call 999.
For information about the signs of CSE, alongside links to help and support, visit https://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/report/child-sexual-exploitation-cse/
Hotels, B&Bs and taxi companies wishing to work with Avon and Somerset Police in raising awareness and educating their employees, including how to spot the signs of CSE, are invited to get in touch with Topaz Prevention Officer Androulla Nicolaou, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org