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Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich hotels fail police test to identify child sexual exploitation

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Hotels in Suffolk failed a police test designed to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.

Suffolk Constabulary played out a scenario on Saturday, September 18 to test the response of hotels when faced with suspicious behaviour.

The force called on police cadets, who were 16, to play the role of a ‘vulnerable’ child in the scenario.

Police visited three hotels in Bury St Edmunds and five in Ipswich. Stock image
Police visited three hotels in Bury St Edmunds and five in Ipswich. Stock image

It involved two individuals trying to secure a room for the night or just a few hours to indicate a vulnerable child was being exploited.

They visited eight hotels with three in Bury St Edmunds and five in Ipswich.

However, the majority of hotels failed to identify the scenario being played out in their reception.

Officers debriefed managers and staff so they were better equipped to recognise the issue and they accepted training to learn further.

It was part of Operation Makesafe, a national campaign across 20 police forces, to raise awareness at hotels, licensed premises and taxi companies of potential victims of sexual exploitation.

Child exploitation is abuse involving children under the age of 18 being coerced or manipulated into criminal activity with adults or older children.

Violence and intimidation are often used with children given gifts, money, alcohol or drugs in exchange for sexual activity with the abuser, or made to take part in criminal activity.

Operational lead Supt. Jane Topping, who is commander for the south including Ipswich, said: "Child sexual exploitation has significant long lasting impact on victims, primarily young girls.

"This initiative ensures that those who would exploit children will be challenged by staff working within the hotel industry allowing police to take action."

Tim Passmore, Police and Crime Commissioner, said: "Education is key. Ensuring relevant businesses, such as the hospitality industry, are aware of this wicked crime and can identify the signs of child exploitation will make a huge difference."

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