Operation Makesafe awareness training has been rolled out to staff from businesses across Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford and around the local area.
The Specialist Crime Command’s Modern Slavery and Child Exploitation team and Stratford’s Safer Neighbourhoods Team, working in partnership with the Safer Business Network, held an event on Wednesday, 15 March, in Vue Cinema, Westfield Shopping Centre attended by over 100 people.
Operation Makesafe is a national campaign which is entirely focused on raising community awareness of child exploitation. It aims to empower businesses and organisations to tackle child exploitation through increased awareness and training.
Earlier this month Met officers arrested more than 200 people and seized over one million pounds during a week-long crackdown on county line gangs. 177 people were safeguarded. This emphasises the importance of Op Makesafe and the help needed by the public to protect children from this incredibly harmful activity.
The businesses the Met work with include; hotels, licensed premises, taxis and private hire vehicle company’s, care homes, shopping centres, transport hubs, Wi-Fi hotspots and fast food outlets.
The campaign is designed to help business owners and their employees identify potential victims of child exploitation and, where necessary, alert police officers to intervene prior to any young person coming to harm.
Detective Constable Jules Benrad, from the Met’s Modern Slavery and Child Exploitation team, said: “The Met is committed to tackling this issue but we also need our local business community to take responsibility for safeguarding young people from all forms of exploitation.
“By highlighting these warning signs and providing employers with a step by step referral process to the police, we hope that all businesses will play their part in making Op Makesafe a success.
“We will continue to hold events like today working alongside our neighbouring boroughs, local authorities and local businesses to help keep our children safe.”
Since the Met’s relaunch of Op Makesafe in March 2022, all Met call handlers and Basic Command Unit’s exploitation teams have been trained. In addition over 3,000 external businesses and key partners, have been trained to recognise the signs.
Mohammed Qazi from Safer Business Network, said: “It was a very successful day and I want to thank everyone for making it happen.
“Business leads are encouraged to take a proactive role and implement measures to safeguard their premises from being used for child exploitation.
“Partnership work allows us a concentrated approach to tackle various issues such as child exploitation and modern slavery; through development and upskilling we can help spread awareness throughout Stratford and London to spot, tackle and report any early signs of child exploitation or modern slavery before they escalate.”
Children are often coerced to engage with offenders by the offer of things such as alcohol, money, gifts, drugs, mobile phones and the illusion of love and attention. They are then subjected to modern slavery involving horrendous emotional and physical abuse.
Victims often do not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship or see themselves as a victim. As a result, they are unlikely to report the abuse, so the issue remains seriously underreported.
To find out more about Operation Makesafe and county lines visit: https://www.met.police.uk/police-forces/metropolitan-police/areas/about-us/about-the-met/campaigns/operation-makesafe/ and County lines | Metropolitan Police

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