Child sexual exploitation is not just committed by “gangs of old men” from Rochdale, a police officer has said.
PC Joshua Dearsley, Hackney ambassador for Operation Makesafe, a city-wide child sexual exploitation operation, said that the media presentation of exploitation missed the broader problem: “The media definition would be gangs of older men systematically exploiting very young vulnerable girls. But the definition is far broader than that.”
Operation Makesafe, launched by the Metropolitan Police in 2014 in partnership with local councils, aims to identify potential child victims of sexual exploitation. Businesses such as taxi firms, hotels and clubs are given awareness training.
Police in Hackney are particularly targeting businesses in the “Shoreditch Triangle”, due to its density of licensed premises. High profile partners include the Holiday Inn, which has a branch in Shoreditch.
PC Dearsley explained: “Makesafe is about getting people aware of what the signs and risk factors are.”
The police were specifically targeting staff at licensed premises: “The intelligence shows that they could be picking up on a lot if only they knew what they were looking for and were encouraged enough to come forward with things when they see them,” said Dearsley.
He also stressed that, with such a complex issue as child sexual exploitation, working with a range of organisations was vital.
“You have to solve these situations with partnership, working with social services, with the NHS, with local councils and so on,” he said.
Picture credits: Flickr CC: Veronica; met.police.uk