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Operation Makesafe: Working together to stop child exploitation

Operation Makesafe is a national police initiative focused on empowering businesses and industries to tackle child exploitation through increased awareness and training. The campaign works within business sectors – hotels, licensed premises and the taxi industry – to make them aware of the early warning signs of both Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE). 


Operation Makesafe informs people on how to alert the police to intervene, where necessary, and stop any young person coming to harm. It is, therefore, vital that communities can identify when a child is in danger of exploitation and act immediately. It may be that you work within the specified business sectors mentioned or perhaps have friends and family who do – everyone can help spread the awareness message.


People are asked to call 101, or 999 in an emergency, and quote “Operation Makesafe” if they see something that just doesn’t look right. The police operator will know what the person is calling about and ask a series of questions about the concerns – to identify the risk and deploy police as required.  


The initiative has been running since 2017 and remains a highly important area of awareness. New warning-sign posters and an informative training video can be viewed, downloaded and shared here.


Operation Makesafe isn’t necessarily about seeing a crime take place, it is about seeing the bigger picture. Spotting the warning signs and reporting them to police to stop a crime from happening.   


What is child exploitation and why do we need Operation Makesafe? 

Child exploitation is child abuse. It occurs where an individual or group take advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under 18 into sexual or criminal activity - in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or for the financial advantage or increased status of the person exploiting them. 


The victim may have been exploited even if it appears they have consented. Child exploitation is a hidden crime and often goes on beneath the radar, even here in leafy Surrey. Victims are often reluctant to report their abuse due to fear for themselves or family – or they do not recognise themselves as victims due to the grooming that has taken place. 


National and local evidence shows us that child exploitation can take place in hotels, pubs, cafés and places licenced to sell alcohol. Taxis can also be used to transport children who are then exploited. 


Warning signs for those working in hotels: 

  • Adults booking young people into hotels during odd times of the day or night and with no luggage. 
  • Guests who appear secretive about their visit or trying to conceal that they are with a young person.  
  • Evidence of drug paraphernalia or multiple mobile phones being found in a hotel room.  
  • Adult guests insisting on paying in cash and refusing to leave a credit card imprint.  

    Warning signs for those working in the taxi industry: 

  • Adults putting a young person, who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, into a cab.  
  • Young people being picked up and taken to hotels, particularly at odd times of the day and night.
  • Adults who behave unusually in the company of young people

    Warning signs for those working in pubs, cafés or restaurants: 

  • An adult with a young person whom they are touching or behaving in an intimate way with. 
  • Adults befriending younger people including buying them food and drinks.  
  • Adults who come in on their own and always target young people.  
  • Adults buying alcoholic drinks which you suspect are for someone under 18, or adults coming in with young people under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  

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    Message Sent By
    Hannah Lemieux
    (Police , Communications Officer, Corporate comms)

    Neighbourhood Alert Cyber Essentials