Northamptonshire's taxi drivers, hotels and licensed premises are being asked to watch for the signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and help keep children and young people safe across the county.
They are being given training and guidance on how to spot if a child could be at risk of exploitation and how to report it properly.
The training materials, which are being given out by Northamptonshire Police as part of the 'Say Something If You See Something' campaign, say taxi services, hotels and licensed premises like bars and pubs are often used in the course of exploiting and abusing victims.
Detective chief inspector Rich Tompkins, who leads the RISE (Reducing Incidents of Sexual Exploitation) team, said: “People who work in these industries are in a unique position to spot the signs of CSE and they have a duty to notice when all may not be right and to pass their concerns on to the police, potentially saving a child from this horrendous crime.
“Exploited children are often terrified and usually too scared to raise the alarm and ask for help. Taxi drivers, for example, need to notice when all may not be right with passengers in their vehicle, hotel reception staff need to look out for unusual bookings, and bar staff need to be alert to a number of indicators and raise the alarm if necessary.
“CSE is often hidden from view and going unnoticed. We need our licensed drivers and licensed premises, who are in a unique position to act as our eyes and ears, to spot activity or predatory behaviour that may be linked to child sexual exploitation and let us know so we can act quickly to safeguard victims and bring their abusers to justice.”
The training reminds staff that young people will often try to make themselves look older than they actually are and to offer them support if anything seems suspicious.
Iain Low, who is the Strategic Manager at Northamptonshire County Council’s Safeguarding and Children's Services, said:
“We have a duty to ensure frontline service industries are armed with the right information and are supported by police and local authority professionals.
“We must all work together to protect our children and raising awareness of CSE is crucial so that everybody across the county can spot the signs and speak out to stop it. These training materials will help us work together to inform, educate and prevent children from being sexually abused and it will soon be a mandatory requirement to undertake the CSE module as part of gaining a new taxi licence.
“We’ve had great support from all the businesses concerned who are fully supportive of the initiative and happy to join in the fight against child sexual exploitation.”
Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a young person should call the Child Safeguarding Team on 0300 126 1000, Northamptonshire Police on 101, or in an emergency call 999.