Hotels sign up to stop child sexual exploitation

The Hotel Watch meeting took place at Banbury House Hotel
The Hotel Watch meeting took place at Banbury House Hotel

A scheme to tackle child sexual exploitation in Cherwell and West Oxfordshire launched yesterday.

Hotel Watch is a new project created by Thames Valley Police that aims to improve the links between police and hoteliers so that concerns and information are shared.

The first meeting of Hotel Watch took place yesterday at Banbury’s Best Western Banbury House Hotel, and was attended by 11 hoteliers, including owners of large hotels and small B&Bs.

The scheme has been implemented following Operation Bullfinch, a police operation that uncovered children being sexually abused, including at an east Oxford guesthouse.

Senior police officers hope more hotel and B&B owners will now sign up for Hotel Watch and the project can expand from Cherwell into west Oxfordshire.

Insp Katrina Hibbert said: “It has been a very positive start.

“Our hope is that Hotel Watch will deter and prevent child sexual exploitation that may be occurring now.

“Rather than dealing with the aftermath, we want people being proactive and out there now to prevent these offences happening.”

PC Ian Allen, of Banbury police station, said: “We have had lots of positive comments, and everybody on board seems to think it is a good scheme to be involved in.

“The importance of Hotel Watch is building relationships with hotel and guesthouse owners, building up that network and then sharing information with each other to try and alleviate any problems.”

Debbie Whitford, owner of Avonlea Guest House in Banbury, said: “We need to help stamp out child sexual exploitation, and today’s meeting was useful because we are all now aware of what to look out for.

“We don’t want it in our community – we don’t want it anywhere in Britain, for that matter.

“Unfortunately, child sexual exploitation seems to be far more prevalent than anyone realised.

“I would definitely encourage other hotel and B&B owners to come along to the next meeting.”

Jan Hanwell, owner of Hanwell House in Banbury, said: “I think Hotel Watch has the potential to be very useful, not just for child sexual exploitation but also for information about other crimes and general security.

“The important thing about this scheme is that it is brings all the hotel and B&B owners together, so that we are all working as a group.”

For more information about Hotel Watch and to join the scheme, contact neighbourhood watch coordinator Debbie Hextall on 01295 754 611 or Deborah.Hextall@thamesvalley.pnn.police.uk