A global international hotel chain has become the first business in Westminster to pledge its support of a police campaign raising awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in hotels, taxis and other businesses.
Operation Makesafe is a joint initiative between the Metropolitan Police and Westminster City Council that aims to train staff to spot the signs of CSE. Radisson Blu Hotels and Resorts was the first major business in Westminster to undergo the training today, with others expected to take part in the coming weeks.
Radisson Blu, Portman Square, took part in the first training session as part of the launch of the campaign across Westminster.
Two million children under 16 across the UK are affected by sexual violence or abuse, with police receiving over 1,000 CSE referrals of children that were identified as being at risk.
Councillor Danny Chalkley, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "Keeping children safe is our top priority and no child should ever be the victim of such horrific abuse. We are committed to working with the police to put a stop to this abhorrent crime.
"Westminster has one of the highest densities of hotels in London, employing thousands of staff members, which is why bringing this training to central London is so important. We are delighted that the Radisson Blu Portman Hotel London is the first to join our campaign and hope the training will allow staff to protect children by recognising the signs and knowing how to report anything suspicious."
Peter Ayling, Westminster Borough Commander, said: "A common feature of CSE is that the child or young person does not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship and do not see themselves as a victim of sexual exploitation. As a result, they are unlikely to report the abuse, meaning the issue remains seriously under reported.
"It is therefore essential that not only police and partners, but also the wider community, are alert to the warning signs. CSE is a hidden crime and this initiative will help us raise awareness within a vital group - those who witness all manner of scenarios on a daily basis. We all have a responsibility to keep our children and young people safe from harm and getting the local business sector on board will assist in the prevention, detection and safeguarding of those at risk.
"Our work in this area and understanding of the issue is much improved in recent times, but we cannot tackle this issue alone. We need the assistance of the public; calling in any concerns which could provide officers with the opportunity to intervene before any harm comes occurs."
Businesses that sign up to Operation Makesafe will be provided with free police training which will allow them to not only recognise the signs of a child at risk, but to report the incident anonymously to police by calling 101 and quoting Operation Makesafe.
For more information, visit westminster.gov.uk/cse