Work ongoing to raise awareness within the hospitality sector of child sexual exploitation (CSE)
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South Wales Police’s dedicated Exploitation Team will be working to improve awareness of Child Sexual and Criminal Exploitation within the hospitality sector, after a recent ‘check and test’ operation saw every hotel visited fail to spot key tell-tale signs.
The team conducted the ‘test-purchase’ operation at six venues last week, using a plain-clothed male police officer and two young Police Youth Volunteers.
As part of the operation, the trio attended at hotel reception areas and attempted to book last-minute rooms. In each case, the man wanted to book the room for himself and the two young girls, and made it clear the room would only be required for a few hours. He also wanted to pay in cash.
No questions or safeguarding concerns were raised during any of the visits.
Following the test exchange, hotel management and staff were spoken to by plain clothed officers and were made aware of the operation and the reasoning behind it. Officers enquired what training staff had been given to improve their understanding of exploitation, and where this could be improved.
Detective Sergeant Lucy Roberts, who led last week’s operation, said:
“Our priority is always safeguarding children and those at risk of exploitation and the fact that no-one raised any concerns that night just demonstrates the real lack of awareness there is that such crimes can be happening within our communities.
“As a force, we have become aware that some hotels in the south Wales area have been used to sexually exploit vulnerable young people, and this operation was set up to assess the effectiveness of hotels in identifying and safeguarding potential victims of child sexual exploitation with a test purchase.
“The visits weren’t intended to catch individual staff members out – the intention was to educate and to identify where there are clear training gaps, so that alongside the venues and our licensing partners, we can work to help address this.
“We fully appreciate it isn’t always easy to spot the signs – fathers for example have every right to check in to a hotel with their children – but our ask is simply for people to look a little closer, to ask questions, and to raise the alarm if things don’t seem right.
“We all have a part to play in tackling exploitation – we are committed to bringing perpetrators to justice and safeguarding those at risk and those who’ve suffered at the hands of such ruthless criminals – our plea is for our communities to work with us to do so.”
Further test purchases and training will continue throughout the force area in the coming weeks and months.