Blackburn takeaways investigated over child sexual exploitation fears
and live on Freeview channel 276
Officers made unannounced visits to three takeaways – two in Blackburn and one in Darwen – on Monday (December 19), alongside child social services, licencing, fire and rescue, and Environmental Health.
Lancashire Police said the raids – dubbed Operation Latimer – were the result of concerns raised about possible child sexual exploitation (CSE).
A spokesman for the force said: “We have visited businesses in Blackburn and Darwen following concerns around possible child sexual exploitation (CSE).
"During the visit, business owners and staff were spoken to and educated around the issue of CSE and the premises were inspected to ensure they were complying with health and safety, licencing and hygiene requirements.
"We also visited exploitation hotspots and ensured all children and families were safeguarded.”
DS Sheralyn Melton added that police are aware of potential incidents of child sexual exploitation associated with a number of takeaways in Blackburn and Darwen and these visits were "pro-active and early interventions to address those concerns”.
Lancashire Police said no arrests were made in connection with child sexual exploitation during the visits. The force added that it does not want to name individual businesses because it might lead to ‘reprisals’ against them and their staff.
However, the force confirmed to the Post that all three businesses were takeaways.
A police spokesman also explained that the force is not in a position to say which areas are deemed ‘exploitation hotspots’ because the force has “ongoing enquiries in those areas.”
During the police visit, one takeaway staff member – a 43-year-old man from Blackburn – was arrested on suspicion of an Immigration Act Offence.
He has since been released under investigation pending further enquiries.
Why did police target takeaways?
DS Sheralyn Melton said: “We are aware of potential child sexual exploitation associated to business premises in Blackburn and Darwen and these visits were our pro-active and early interventions to address those concerns.
"It’s vital that we work with partners in order to educate and to robustly ensure that no illegal activity is taking place.
“We will continue with these operations and if we discover that any children are being exploited – whether that be sexually or criminally – we will safeguard them and do everything in our power to put their abusers before the courts.”
What are the signs parents need to know?
Lancashire Police say the following are signs that a child might be the victim of sexual exploitation.
- Has the young person received unexplained gifts or money?
- Do they use their mobile phone secretively?
- Do they have significantly older friends?
- Have they been picked up from home or school by someone you don't know?
- Are they associating with other young people who are already known to be vulnerable or involved in exploitation?
- Have they started playing truant from school or regularly going missing from home?
- Have they suffered from a sexually-transmitted infection?
- Are they self-harming?
- Has their appearance changed?
For more information about CSE, visit the Lancashire Police website.