Officers pretending to be paedophiles test hotel staff
Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) attempted to book hotel rooms with young police cadets to see whether staff recognise the warning signs of child sexual exploitation.
Over the last week, officers tried to book a shared room with the child, often with large amounts of alcohol on show, paying in cash and refusing to provide identification to the hotel staff.
The scenarios were intended to raise alarm bells and prompt staff to refuse the room and contact the police.
Many of the hotels that were visited were trained under Operation Makesafe, a training package that issues guidance to hotel managers on how to spot the signs of child sexual exploitation.
Contacting the police and referencing ‘Makesafe’ will alert call handlers to the suspicion of child sexual exploitation, and officers will be deployed to the scene.
In the last three years the number of child sexual exploitation related offences recorded in London has almost doubled (from 602 to 1,107).
The number of children assessed as being at possible risk of CSE was 40 per cent higher in in 2017/18 than in 2014/15.
Chief Superintendent Helen Millichap, the MPS’s lead for CSE, said: “We know that perpetrators of CSE may use hotels to commit offences, which is why Operation Makesafe was initially introduced. Makesafe is all about awareness raising and has received wide recognition at a national level, helping us all to keep children safe.
“We know that CSE is likely to be under reported, so we rely on people being alert and well informed about some of the ways that children could be groomed. We would far rather someone alerted us and for it to be a false alarm, than for us to miss a chance to investigate. This operation is based on that principle so that even if this type of crime might be very rare for a hotel to see, they are sure about what to do.”
A similar operation was conducted by West Yorkshire Police which said it was “disappointed” that most hotels simply refused the room, rather than reporting the people to the police.
In 2017, the force recorded 63 instances in which children were being sexually abused in hotels or B&Bs in the Yorkshire and Humber region in two years.
“This is about making sure that the training implemented is being put into practice; and what has been established during previous similar operations, is that there are occasions when the correct action is not always being taken. We have been working closely with those within the hotel industry, who understand the importance of the issue and are keen to support our efforts,” Chief Supt Millichap added.
“This is not an operation designed to catch people out or blame these venues. We want to encourage awareness in a powerful way. Where the response is not what we would expect, it offers us the opportunity to provide refresher training and reiterate the warning signs. By carrying out these operations we are keeping the issue fresh in the minds of those who can take positive action, with a view to preventing offences and safeguarding young people.”
Child sexual exploitation often remains unreported because the minors involved do not always realise they are being exploited.
Detective Inspector Anna Rice, of the City of London Police’s Public Protection Unit, said: “We all have a role to play in keeping children and young people safe from sexual exploitation. The City of London Police will continue to work collaboratively with the Metropolitan Police to provide a consistent approach to tackling child sexual exploitation and raise awareness amongst businesses and the general public. We would always encourage people to trust their instincts and get in contact with the police at the first available opportunity if they have any concerns. Together we can identify, protect and safeguard those who may be at risk.”