Sara Verbruggen

Freelance journalist

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Experienced freelance B2B journalist and editor, specialising in fields of renewable energy, energy storage, smart grids and nanotech.
December 5, 2017

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RETAIL CRIME

Victim of child sexual exploitation rescued through data-sharing initiative at Westfield Stratford City

A teenage victim of sexual exploitation is now in the custody of child protection authorities thanks to a data-sharing initiative.

The National Business Crime Solution (NBCS), a not-for-profit that enables data sharing between law enforcement and business, launched an initiative at Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, East London aimed at addressing business-related crime.

Business Impact Reduction Day (BIRD) – also known as Operation BIRD – saw 51 security and loss prevention professionals from across the industry join forces with the police service and retailers in order to target prolific and persistent offenders.

Thee most significant, and unexpected, result of the day concerned the apprehension of a 15-year old female from the north of England. It was discovered that the teenager was the victim of child sexual exploitation, coerced into shoplifting. She is now in the care of child protection authorities.

“The story of how this vulnerable young person came to be shoplifting has brought into sharp focus why safeguarding intervention requires sensitive and considerate handling when dealing with victims of child sexual exploitation.” NBCS managing director Dan Hardy

“The story of how this vulnerable young person came to be shoplifting in Westfield shopping centre was truly shocking,” said NBCS managing director Dan Hardy. “It has brought into sharp focus why safeguarding intervention requires sensitive and considerate handling when dealing with the victims of child sexual exploitation.

“It has also highlighted the need for security service providers to educate their officers on this subject and implement consistent training.”

Operation BIRD resulted in 18 detentions and various actions including penalty notices, community resolutions and civil recoveries, as well as arrests and charges.

The day began with a briefing and the identification of persistent offenders. A team from the Metropolitan Police was present to identify any other recognisable offenders.

Officers in the team have the ability to instantly place a familiar face, a skill that some researchers estimate is present in just 1% of the population.

 

NBCS will drive the initiative forward with its industry partners, while further Operation BIRD activities will take place around the country in places that NBCS intelligence suggests are crime hotspots.

Developed by NBCS, Operation BIRD was supported by the Metropolitan Police’s Business Crime Hub, National Business Crime Centre, Territorial Support Group, London Borough of Newham and Westfield Stratford City.

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