Oxford

Cherwell Hotel Watch to fight child sexual exploitation

A scheme that will link hotels and guest houses to tackle child sexual exploitation is to be launched.

Members of Hotel Watch will hold regular meetings with police to share concerns from January.

So far 25 hoteliers in Cherwell, Oxfordshire, have signed up to the scheme, which could be rolled out across the Thames Valley.

The seven men who were convicted as part of Operation Bullfinch abused girls at Oxford's Nanford Guest House.

'Protect vulnerable people'

Insp Katrina Hibbert, from Banbury Police Station, devised the scheme after meeting hoteliers at series of seminars following the convictions.

"We established that some of the owners already had an informal network in place to meet and inform each other of incidents, but that it was a minority of hoteliers involved and the information was not being shared with police," she said.

"My hope is that Hotel Watch will help us to build closer relationships with the hotel industry, which will help to identify offences and, most importantly, protect vulnerable people."

Hoteliers will be added to the force's Thames Valley Alert scheme.

It is hoped that the scheme will also help tackle other crimes such as people leaving without paying and criminal damage.

Debbie Whitford, who runs Avonlea Guest House in Banbury, was part of a group of seven hoteliers that inspired the scheme's creation.

"It will be good to be open with the police and with each other about what is going on; the sort of people coming in and what to look out for," she said.

"I think after Bullfinch, and particularly after the seminars, most of my colleagues would be very, very wary of exploitation and would pick up on it very quickly."

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