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The Say Something if you See Something, City of Oxford Hotel Conference took place today (16th March 2016), at the Holiday Inn, Pear Tree Roundabout, Oxford. This worthwhile initiative is a combined effort by the Thames Valley Police, Oxford City Council and Oxford County Council. Its aim is to engage the local community to help protect children and vulnerable people from abuse and exploitation. Efforts to establish this initiative began in the aftermath of Operation Bullfinch, a local police operation that resulted in the successful conviction of the criminals responsible for child sexual exploitation in an Oxford guesthouse.
A series of presentations by members from each of the three organisations was heard by an audience of hoteliers. The message delivered to the audience was very clear. Hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfast providers are often used as the vehicles for the sexual exploitation of victims of all ages. This exploitation, and the trafficking of victims for the purpose of exploitation, are both a criminal offense. Hoteliers and other accommodation providers have a key role to play in helping to fight against this crime. It is important therefore that all members of staff within these accommodation premises be aware of the potential signs of exploitation. They also need to ‘be curious’ and if they suspect something then it is also important that they, ‘don’t look away’. If they do, they will be able to provide the police with information that can be a ‘vital part of a jigsaw’ in helping the victims of exploitation and in bringing the criminals responsible to justice. It is important therefore that staff members are trained to look out for signals of exploitation and know how to act if they suspect something.
Conference attendees were provided with information packs which included:
To date, 70 hotels and other accommodation providers in Oxford have signed up to the Oxford Hotel Watch. The importance of these members working together as a business community and with the police and the city and county council was emphasised.
A lively question and answer session that followed the formal presentations identified concerns by hoteliers about the data protection act when sharing information with each other; about the appropriate procedures to follow when an incident is suspected; about the law and refusing ‘suspicious’ guests; and about whether there are any current templates for policies and operational practices that hoteliers can use to get started.
Oxford members of this important initiative will meet again in October. It is hoped that members will find the training toolkits from the Combat Human Trafficking Project an additional valuable and practical resource to help in the prevention of child sexual exploitation and other forms of human trafficking.
This blog reflects only the author’s views and not those if the European Commission. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of information contained in this blog.