PEOPLE in 'public facing roles' are being urged to look out for key signs of child sexual exploitation.

North Yorkshire Police issued the warning, aimed at people in roles who deal with children, and work in roles such as taxi driving, bar staff and hospitality, to the spot vital clues.

The warning comes as Detective Superintendent Allan Harder said sexual exploitation was a "real threat" in the county.

He said: “This type of child abuse is a real threat here in North Yorkshire and tackling this type of crime is a priority for the force – but we can’t do it alone.

"We need members of the public and people who work or interact with young people to report any suspicions they may have."

National guidance suggest key signs are, young people who meet with older people in adult environments, young people who appear to be regularly under the influence of drugs or 'heavily' intoxicated, young people checking into hotels with people they are not related to, and physical signs such as bruising.

Det Supt Harder said young vulnerable people are often preyed upon by criminals.

He said: "Criminals prey on those who appear vulnerable and coerce them into committing crime or being sexually exploited.

"Young people can become vulnerable for many reasons. It could be for home and family reasons, mental health issues, bullying or peer pressure.

"In some cases, however, it is simply their age which makes them vulnerable."

He said anyone who could be considered the "eyes and ears" of the community can help play a part in the force's crackdown on exploitation.

He said: "Those individuals, who work in key public facing roles such as taxi drivers, hoteliers, bus drivers and bar staff, are the eyes and ears of our communities and we are appealing to them to look out for the signs of child sexual exploitation."

He also said that vulnerable victims did not report concerns to police as they did not realise their relationship with the abuser.

He added: “The signs are not always easy to spot, because often the child or young person does not think they are a victim, so they appear happy and carefree.

“My ask is that if you see something that doesn’t feel quite right then please contact the police. If it doesn’t look right or doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t right - please give us a call and we can investigate, making sure no-one is at risk of harm."

  • Anyone who witnesses this form of abuse, or wants to raise concerns over an individual, is advised to contact police on 101.