Six arrests were recently made in Operation Grandbye after police took sustained action to deal with what the potential danger to young women who had been seen hanging around with older men in and around Stratford Shopping Mall.
Detective Inspector Laura Hillier, who is from the Metropolitan Police Sexual Exploitation Team (SET), explained what the police are trying to do in this and similar operations to combat Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). “A common feature of CSE is that the child or young person does not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship and does 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,” she said.
“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 occurs.”
The Metropolitan Police also released the following list of signs to look out for:
•young people who appear secretive by trying to hide where they are going and who they will be with;
•young people who, although with peers, look uncomfortable or under duress;
•adults befriending young people, including buying them food and drinks;
•young people being picked up and taken to hotels, particularly at odd times of the day and night;
•adults who frequently come into premises with different young people.
•Anyone who has any concerns is advised to call police in the first instance using the 101 number. This is staffed by call-handlers who have received training in this area, ensuring a swift and appropriate response is provided. In an emergency call 999.