PUBS and clubs have been recruited in the drive to tackle child sex grooming in Oxford.
Police in the city have started to train bar staff to spot the signs of vulnerable girls being sexually exploited.
The first training session – held on Thursday at the Thirst Bar in Park End Street – was attended by members of the city’s Pubwatch group.
Oxford area police commander Supt Christian Bunt said neighbourhood police would now roll out the short presentation to other pubs, hotels and entertainment spots, and to taxi drivers across the city.
The training session teaches workers to look out for younger people being given alcohol and taken advantage of by older people, and report anything to the police.
Mr Bunt said the move was about raising more awareness.
He said: “They are our eyes and ears in the community.
“Child sex ex-ploitation is happening out in the community and we cannot be there all the time. This education is really important and my hope is we will start to get more information and intelligence back.
“Even if it helps with two or three occasions to keep someone from harm then it is worth it.”
The scheme has been developed by Thames Valley Police and will be used across the region. The first training session was delivered by officers from the city centre neighbourhood team. It follows Operation Bullfinch, which led to seven men being jailed last year at the Old Bailey in London for a total of 95 years, after being convicted of grooming and abusing vulnerable girls in Oxford bet-ween 2004 and 2012.
Danny Scott, spokesman for Oxford Community Against Trafficking (Oxcat), said: “A greater awareness and understanding across the board is what needs to happen.
“Any training session that enables a greater understanding collectively is a very good thing.
“I am concerned ultimately about the depth and breadth of the training that is provided, but I understand that things will be progressed and you have to start somewhere.”
Rob Opher, owner of the Thirst Bar, welcomed the scheme.
He said: “We will cooperate and work alongside the police in any way we can as a local business.”
Last week the Oxford Mail revealed that child protection charity Barnardo’s was recruiting a child sex exploitation worker to help vulnerable teenagers in the city.