Stansted: Officers teach airport workers to spot signs of trafficking or gang involvement
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Officers have been educating people who work in and around Stansted Airport to look out for signs that adults and children are being exploited.
Millions of people use Stansted’s air, rail and road links every year but the ease of the travel into and away from London means that it can also be stop off for children being trafficked by County Lines drug dealers or adults being coerced into sex work.
A team of officers containing gang and safeguarding specialists handed out leaflets developed with the Children’s Society displaying QR codes that will take people to information about exploitation and tell them what to do if they suspect they have seen someone who is a victim.
These were given to workers inside airport terminal as well as taxi and coach drivers, hotel employees, and staff at car rental companies and public transport services.
This day of action was the latest in a series, known as Operation Bumble, that began in October to highlight exploitation.
Officers have also been to Lakeside shopping centre, Grays, Southend, and train stations and taxi ranks across the south and west of the county where they have engaged with hundreds of members of the public and people working in the transport sector.
The operation, supported by the National County Lines Coordination Centre, is led by Detective Sergeant Mark Ghosh, a safeguarding officer from our Op Raptor team.
He said: “Op Bumble was created to raise awareness with the public and businesses about County Lines and the exploitation of vulnerable adults and children in the hope that more people will raise concerns which will give us more opportunities to safeguard people.
“Stansted wouldn’t be thought of as a hotspot for County Lines and gang activity, but you get vulnerable adults and children using the coach and rail system to transit through the airport, so it’s a chance to help those people who may have been forced to travel carrying weapons or drugs or been trafficked into the county for exploitation. We are victim-led, and our priority is protecting the people who are being exploited.”
DS Ghosh said the huge numbers of people who use Stansted in the lead-up to Christmas is a great opportunity for the team to spread their message far and wide, with a mark of success being how many of the people or business they engage with request more information or extra training.
However, Christmas is also a time when drugs gangs may look to entice children who’d otherwise be in school with gifts or cash in exchange for transporting drugs.
Previously the team have had success in safeguarding children by intervening when they’ve appeared at the coach station on their way north.
DS Ghosh also highlighted some the tell-tale signs of exploitation his team ask people to look out for.
He said: “A victim may look nervous, be carrying more than one mobile phone or have a large amount of receipts or cash they can’t explain why is in their possession.
“They may be a timid child travelling on their own or alternatively they can be quite confrontational or aggressive because they are scared.
“We’re also looking for people who appear out of place and may not know exactly where they’re going – they just know a general area.
“If this is the case, we’re asking people to make contact with the police so we’ve got a chance to safeguard these individuals who may be being exploited.”
If you are at risk or know somebody who is, please call us on 101. If you would like to make an anonymous report you can contact independent charity Crimestoppers, by visiting their website or by calling 0800 555 111.
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