Child exploitation awareness training rolled out by MPS

Training to spot signs of child exploitation is being rolled out to local businesses in the Stratford area by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) as part of Operation Makesafe.

Mar 16, 2023
By Paul Jacques
Detective Constable Jules Benrad, Mohammed Qazi, Inspector Carrie Chapman and Hussan Mahmood, community safety officer at Newham

The operation is a national campaign focused on raising community awareness of child exploitation. It aims to empower businesses and organisations to tackle child exploitation through increased awareness and training.

Awareness training is now being delivered to staff from businesses across Stratford’s Westfield Shopping Centre and around the local area.

Since the MPS’s relaunch of Operation Makesafe in March 2022, all force call handlers and Basic Command Unit’s exploitation teams have been trained. In addition, more than 3,000 external businesses and partners have been trained to recognise the signs.

Earlier this month MPS officers arrested more than 200 people and seized more than £1 million during a week-long crackdown on County Lines gangs, with 177 people safeguarded.

“This emphasises the importance of Op Makesafe and the help needed by the public to protect children from this incredibly harmful activity,” said the MPS

The businesses the MPS works with include hotels, licensed premises, taxis and private hire vehicle companies, care homes, shopping centres, transport hubs, wi-fi hotspots and fast food outlets.

The campaign is designed to help business owners and their employees identify potential victims of child exploitation and, where necessary, alert police officers to intervene prior to any young person coming to harm.

Detective Constable Jules Benrad, from the MPS’s Modern Slavery and Child Exploitation team, said: “The Met is committed to tackling this issue but we also need our local business community to take responsibility for safeguarding young people from all forms of exploitation.

“By highlighting these warning signs and providing employers with a step by step referral process to the police, we hope that all businesses will play their part in making Op Makesafe a success.

“We will continue to hold events like today working alongside our neighbouring boroughs, local authorities and local businesses to help keep our children safe.”

The Specialist Crime Command’s Modern Slavery and Child Exploitation team and Stratford’s Safer Neighbourhoods Team, working in partnership with the Safer Business Network, held an event this week at Westfield Shopping Centre as part of the operation, which was attended by more than 100 people.

Mohammed Qazi from Safer Business Network said: “It was a very successful day and I want to thank everyone for making it happen.

“Business leads are encouraged to take a proactive role and implement measures to safeguard their premises from being used for child exploitation.

“Partnership work allows us a concentrated approach to tackle various issues such as child exploitation and modern slavery; through development and upskilling we can help spread awareness throughout Stratford and London to spot, tackle and report any early signs of child exploitation or modern slavery before they escalate.”

The MPS said children are often coerced to engage with offenders by the offer of things such as alcohol, money, gifts, drugs, mobile phones and the illusion of love and attention.

“They are then subjected to modern slavery involving horrendous emotional and physical abuse,” it added.

“Victims often do not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship or see themselves as a victim. As a result, they are unlikely to report the abuse, so the issue remains seriously under-reported.”

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