The Police Service of Northern Ireland is working with The Security Industry Authority (SIA) in an operation to help keep young people safe.
Friday 18th March marks Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Day. On the run up to this day and beyond, policing teams will be making available to the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland, a new suite of training packages to help better safeguard children.
CSE is happening in Northern Ireland and since September 2020 the Police Service have had a dedicated team of 13 Detectives to combat these crimes, with CSE officers located in each trust area.
As a result of their proactive investigations and multi-agency interventions with Health and Social Care, there has been a reduction of 33 children at risk over the last six months. As of February 2022, there are now 37 children identified at risk.
National and local evidence shows that CSE is underreported and can take place in hotels, pubs and other places licensed to sell alcohol and that taxis are used to transport young people who are then exploited. Now that these sectors are operating as normal again, the risk is heightened.
Therefore it is vital that training is provided to staff within these sectors to spot the signs of CSE and give them the confidence to report to Police if they feel something is not right.
Taking the lead from a national initiative that has been adopted across England (Operation Makesafe), policing teams have begun a programme of engagement with local night time economy venues in Belfast. Working with the SIA, they will be interacting with staff and management, distributing training materials.
The Belfast Harbour Police are responsible for a number of hotels, bars and nightclubs within the ever growing harbour estate, they will also be out distributing CSE training material and engaging with hospitality venues in their area.
This activity will continue across all Districts in Northern Ireland over the next year.
Detective Sergeant Joanne Jackson said: “Child Sexual Exploitation takes on many different forms and it is everyone’s collective responsibility to help stop it. Giving people a better understanding of the common signs of these crimes will provide them with key opportunities to notify the Police so we can safeguard even more children identified as being at risk.
“We have a dedicated team of officers who are trained to disrupt and bring offenders to justice. Those who seek to sexually exploit children in Northern Ireland should be fearful of the consequences of their actions.”
Lee Crofts, Regional Investigations Manager for the SIA said: “The purpose of the SIA is protecting the public. By working with our partners in the Police, local venues and our licence holders, we can raise awareness around CSE, and help protect some of the most vulnerable members of the public – children.”
For further information see the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s website: https://www.psni.police.uk/advice_information/child-sexual-exploitation/operation-makesafe/ – which includes the briefing material being distributed to the hospitality sector.
On the run up to CSE Awareness Day and on the day itself, the Police Service of Northern Ireland will also be sharing information on how to spots the signs across their social media channels and targeting ads online to 13-16 year olds.
If you’re concerned about a child’s welfare and think they may be being exploited, please report it to Police online, via 101 or 999 in an emergency.
You can also contact independent the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via crimestoppers-uk.org.