Richmond Council and the local police force have called on local businesses to help by spotting and speaking out against possible child abuse.

The local authority and the police have said the initiative has been prompted by Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day on Saturday, March 18.

Child sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse which involves manipulation or the coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity.

Perpetrators can be adults or other children, and they can target their victims online as well as in person.

This week, the Richmond Police will be working with local businesses to hold training and briefing sessions on child sexual exploitation.

The awareness raising will be aimed at hotels, licensed premises, pub watch, taxi companies, buses, trains and children’s homes.

Police officers will also be visiting local schools to take assembles on sexting and promoting safety guidance.

Councillor Stephen Speak, the council’s member for community safety, said: “Child sexual exploitation is a nasty crime that can cause lasting damage to the minds and wellbeing of the victims.

“Keeping children safe is therefore a key priority for the council, but everyone can play their part in helping to protect children.

“We are committed to stopping child sexual exploitation and to supporting the victims and their families, but we cannot succeed without support from across the borough.

“Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Week is a step towards asking everyone to think; spot and speak out against the abuse of young people.”