Closing gateways to child exploitation: Hospitality


An undercover operation led by GMP’s Rochdale district and Rochdale Council is holding hoteliers to account, as the partnership works to prevent and reduce child sexual exploitation.

Under Operation Cobalt, test purchasers attempt to book hotel rooms to check staff spot obvious signs of child sexual exploitation and take action to safeguard young people.

In this setting, obvious signs include adult males trying to secure rooms in secluded areas for them and underage females for a short period of time, often an hour in the daytime.

So far, the team have identified eight premises of concern and have also carried out visits, alongside social workers, to educate staff on how to report any concerns they may have.

Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Round, who oversees GMP Rochdale’s Complex Safeguarding Unit, said: “In recent years, we have taken strides on our journey to improve our response to child sexual exploitation. Whilst operations like Lytton are investigating crimes to ensure survivors are properly cared for and suspects are relentlessly pursued, we are running a number of proactive alternatives specifically to prevent vulnerable young people from becoming victims in the first place.

“Our journey, so far, has seen us put a real focus on effective partnership working between GMP and colleagues from the local authority and health services. By co-locating key individuals within our Complex Safeguarding Hub, we have developed a proper understanding of how each agency can contribute to the fight and ensure they are well positioned to use their powers to yield positive results – Operation Cobalt is just one embodiment of this coming together.

“Whilst there will always be offenders who seek to exploit vulnerable young people – either criminally or sexually, this approach is ensuring we identify those involved at the earliest possible opportunity. We’re also committed to helping others spot the signs and utilise our reporting mechanisms. As such, we have a team who deliver inputs to children, staff, and parents at local schools and to the businesses in our communities which are most likely to have intelligence about this abhorrent type of crime.”

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