A special operation aimed at insuring local hoteliers are familiar with the early warning signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE) took place across North Herts and Stevenage yesterday (Wednesday 9 November).
Child sexual exploitation involves situations, contexts or relationships in which a person under 18 is given something, such as food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts or money, in return for sexual activities. It can also involve violence, coercion, and intimidation, with threats of physical harm or humiliation.
As part of the local implementation of the Constabulary’s CSE strategy, eight hotels were tested regarding their basic child protection procedures and CSE awareness. The hotels were based in Hitchin, Stevenage and Letchworth.
In each instance a plain clothed or Council Community Safety Unit Official, entered the hotel with a young person from North Herts College, who they were clearly unrelated to and unfamiliar with, and tried to book a double room without ID and using cash only. There were varying levels of checks in place, but ultimately in seven out of eight cases, they were successful in booking a room.
Commenting on the operation, Community Safety Sergeant Chris Adshead said: “Local and national evidence shows that CSE can take place in hotels, pubs, cafes and places licensed to sell alcohol. This operation is all about working with the industry to highlight the problem and improve standards. We are working to make sure people employed in these industries are aware of the warning signs and have the confidence to report their concerns.
“Child exploitation isn’t always easy to spot, but there are signs to look out for, so these hotels will now be provided with campaign posters and training to raise awareness among their customers and staff.”
The operation included an input to the students who took part from the Level 3 extended diploma in Uniformed Protective Services course at North Herts College, who not only took part, but were also able to be warned of the dangers themselves as a result. The course not only allows them to experience police work, but also counts towards mandatory targeted work experience.