Working with businesses to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation

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Almost 30 premises in Bedford have agreed to support a campaign to safeguard children after visits to educate them about spotting the signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

Our force along with Bedford Borough Council, visited 27 fast food outlets and off-licences in Midland Road and Bromham Road to talk about Operation Makesafe.

Operation Makesafe is a police initiative, supported by partners and local businesses, which aims to identify potential victims and the perpetrators of CSE in public places, such as hotels, licensed premises, fast food outlets and taxi services.

The operation can also deploy police officers to intervene and safeguard children before any harm or abuse occurs.

Recently a teenager was safeguarded after a hotel in Bedford contacted police, using emergency number 999, and quoting Operation Makesafe, after seeing something that fitted in with the signs of exploitation. An investigation is currently ongoing. 

The hotel was aware of the Operation Makesafe protocol because of ongoing work and training, and the CSE Disruption team continue to work with partners to roll out and support Makesafe training across Bedfordshire.

Police Constable Gemma Bear, who works for the force’s CSE Disruption team, said: “Child exploitation can cause lifelong emotional and physical trauma for victims and their families, so combatting and tackling this is a priority for us in Bedfordshire. 

“We will continue to work with our partners and businesses in the county to raise awareness of exploitation and give our communities the tools they need to help us safeguard children in Bedfordshire.

“Whilst we do all we can to work with industries such as food outlets, hotels, train stations and other businesses, and give them the insight to spot exploitation, we would also encourage the public to be aware of the signs and speak to their children, friends and family about the dangers of CSE.”

Councillor Colleen Atkins, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety at Bedford Borough Council said, “Everyone can play a part in helping to keep our children and young people in Bedford Borough safe, whether at home, in care, online or just out and about in the community. 

“Our combined partnership efforts as part of Operation Makesafe are therefore focusing on ensuring people know what to look for and what to do if they see or hear something that causes them concern. Doing nothing is simply not an option for anyone.”

The signs of CSE include:

  • Changes in behaviour or any physical signs of abuse
  • New, unexplained gifts or possessions
  • Episodes of staying out late or not returning home

Visit Bedfordshire Against CSE website for more information. The website has advice for parents and ways to keep children safe online.

If you’re being exploited, or have concerns for someone else, you can call us on 101, or make a report via our online reporting centre.  In an emergency, call 999.

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