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Police in Christmas clampdown on drug dealing and child sex abuse at Stratford shopping mall

PUBLISHED: 08:59 05 December 2017 | UPDATED: 13:02 05 December 2017

Stratford Mall shopping centre. Picture: Google

Stratford Mall shopping centre. Picture: Google

Google

Detectives investigating drugs and child sexual exploitation of girls as young as 13 at the Stratford Mall have arrested six people so far including schoolboys in a Christmas season clampdown.

The arrests also include a 34-year-old man on suspicion of rape and possessing cannabis with intent to supply who has since been released under investigation.

Worries about sexual exploitation, drug pushing and robbery in the shopping centre increased after young girls were seen with older men.

But one of those arrested was a 15-year-old youth on November 17 on suspicion of robbery who was released under investigation, Scotland Yard confirmed last night.

The Met is running its safeguarding ‘Operation Grandbye’ with the Children’s Society to tackle child sexual abuse and drug dealing involving girls as young as 13, the Met’s Child Sex Exploitation unit has revealed.

Children have been stopped and spoken to by officers, some being referred to Social Services and given educational support.

“A common feature is the child or youngster doesn’t recognise the coercive nature of the relationship,” Det Insp Laura Hillier said.

“They don’t see themselves as a victim of sexual exploitation—so they’re unlikely to report the abuse and the issue remains seriously under reported.”

Police can’t tackle the exploitation alone and say they need to alert the public to warning signs to intervene before any harm takes place.

“Child sex abuse is a hidden crime,” the detective inspector added. “This operation helps raise awareness among those who witness all manner of scenarios every day.

“We all have a responsibility to keep children and young people safe from harm and to prevent, detect and safeguard those at risk.”

Officers are issuing ‘Child Abduction Warning’ notices and distributing literature about exploitation to disrupt suspects targeting young girls.

Warning signs that detectives say the public should watch for are adults befriending young people, including buying them food and drinks, youngsters being picked up and taken to hotels at odd times of the day and night, adults frequently coming into premises with different young people, youngsters who seem secretive by hiding where they are going and who they may be with and youngsters looking under duress or uncomfortable.

The arrests began on November 17 including two youths aged 15 and 16, one served with a ‘Child Abduction Warning’ notice on suspicion of drugs supply, the other on suspicion of robbery.

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