in Aerospace / Security

Essex Police complete Operation Avocado at Stansted Airport

Posted 1 April 2022 · Add Comment

Essex Police officers have completed Operation Avocado at Stansted Airport, which was designed to educate commercial drivers and airport workers about the signs that children might be victims of exploitation.

PC Gemma Horton hands out QR codes to workers at the airport's coach station during Operation Avocado at Stansted Airport.
Courtesy Essex Police

Stansted Airport is a busy transport hub with a large coach station and good train links into and away from London. County Lines drug dealers are known to use taxis, coaches and trains to move people and drugs around the country.

Detective Constable Mark Ghosh and his team set up a checkpoint at the airport to stop taxis and other private hire vehicles as they were leaving the site.

The team worked alongside partners from the Children’s Society and Justice & Care to hand out business card-sized QR codes that will take drivers to information about exploitation and tell them what to do if they suspect they have a passenger who is a victim.

As well as educating drivers, the team carried out health and wellbeing checks on their passengers.

This led to one person being safeguarded by the Serious Violence Unit and Justice & Care and an arrest was made. The vehicle they were travelling in was seized, which was one of three seizures made over the three days of Operation Avocado.

In total, the team stopped 168 vehicles, spoke to more than 170 drivers and gave out 265 QR codes to staff at the coach station, train station, service station, the on-site hotels and to car hire village employees.

DC Ghosh said the operation had been “really successful” and outlined what his team were aiming to achieve:

“The main intention was to educate the drivers about County Lines as they need to be aware of children using taxis, or being forced to use taxis, who are being criminally exploited.

“The drivers were aware that if they had a child who was being asked to make frequent stops at different addresses with little or no explanation this was a potential sign of exploitation, but we found they lacked the knowledge and confidence to report it to the authorities. We’ve tried to plug that gap.

“The QR tells them the signs to look for when someone might be a vulnerable adult or child being exploited, how and when to contact the police or other authorities and what to do in an emergency.”

DC Ghosh said one of the biggest successes of the activity was bringing together the Children’s Society and National Express. The coach operator is now planning to invite the charity to give training sessions on exploitation to its staff.

He also highlighted some the tell-tale signs of exploitation that his team had been watching out for.

“We were looking for children who were unfamiliar with the location they were going to, or not having any family or links in the area they’re being taken to. This might suggest they don’t know where they’re going or why they’re going there.

“A child with more than one mobile phone might suggest they have a deal phone with them, or are they carrying large amounts of cash with no proper explanation of why they have it?

“Another indicator can be a child having a large number of receipts or tickets as often the person exploiting them wants every single penny accounted for.”



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