First Bus drivers in York are being trained to spot vulnerable children and prevent them coming to harm.
First York is working with North Yorkshire Police and City of York Council to encourage staff to look out for signs of child sexual exploitation or vulnerability as they transport customers around the region.
Bus drivers are being taught to look out for the following signs, which may indicate a child is vulnerable or being exploited:
- Young people who appear to be in a relationship or inappropriately close to someone significantly older;
- Suspicious patterns of behaviour by young people, including being at unusual locations at abnormal times – especially late at night or during school hours;
- Young people using public transport while under the influence of alcohol/ drugs; and
- Inappropriate clothing and sexualised behaviour.
Neil Bailey, Operations Manager at First York, said: “We’re pleased to support this important campaign to help prevent harm to children.
“Our staff live and work across our local communities and can play a valuable role in spotting signs of exploitation.”
The initiative brings together the It’s Not OK Campaign – which seeks to raise awareness of child sexual abuse and exploitation – and Operation Rapport – a York-based operation that brings together charities, the public and private sector to raise awareness of child sexual assault and vulnerability and encourage the public to report concerns.
York-based Police Sergeant Simon Pape said: “One of the challenges police face when tackling child sexual exploitation is that it really can happen anywhere, and vulnerable young people are often manipulated so they don’t come forward and report it.
“Bus drivers meet lots of different people in different communities and travel hundreds of miles a week, morning noon and night, so they’re ideally placed to spot the signs.
“Tackling child sexual abuse is one of North Yorkshire Police’s top priorities and transport staff can support us by acting as the eyes and ears of communities.
“With the support and training we’re providing, their actions could directly prevent a young person from being harmed. And that’s what this operation is all about.”