The leaflets contain a QR code that leads to information about exploitation and tells someone what to do if they suspect they have seen a victim.
Op Bumble began in October 2022 to highlight the signs that children are potentially being taken advantage of by County Lines gangs. The gangs groom youngsters by offering them money or gifts and then force them to courier drugs and cash to unfamiliar places.
Public spaces like bus and train stations, fast food restaurants, hotels and roadside services can be where young victims are most visible.
The latest deployment at Stansted Airport saw 250 vehicles stopped and more than 300 taxi passengers given safety and welfare checks. One arrest was made for a drugs offence.
The operation, which is supported by the National County Lines Coordination Centre, is led by Detective Sergeant Mark Ghosh.
He said: “Op Bumble was created to raise awareness with the public and businesses about County Lines and the exploitation of vulnerable children. The more people know the signs and raise concerns, the more victims we can safeguard. Our priority is protecting the people who are being exploited.
“What’s positive is that a year into the operation, we’re approaching taxi and coach drivers, hotel employees, people who work at car rental firms or on the public transport system, and they’re telling us they know about the campaign and the signs to look for.
“We’ve also been running training sessions about gangs and County Lines, and we’ve had a number of new requests from businesses who want us to run sessions for their teams.”
DS Ghosh also highlighted some tell-tale signs of exploitation his team ask people to be aware of.
He said: “A victim may look nervous, be carrying more than one mobile phone or have a large amount of receipts or cash and can’t explain why they have it 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 concerned about a child and think it’s an emergency, call 999. If it’s not emergency call 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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