Taxi drivers at Stansted Airport were taught to recognise the signs of child exploitation by Essex Police's Op Raptor team.

Safeguarding officers stopped 178 taxis and handed out information to more than 200 drivers and passengers.

The officers worked alongside colleagues from Stansted Airport's Community Policing Team and Chelmsford City Council's community safety officers at a vehicle checkpoint on the way into the airport.

The team gave out 221 business-card sized QR codes from the Children's Society's Look Closer campaign, with information about exploitation and what people should do if they spot something which concerns them.

County Lines drug dealers are known to groom young people by offering money or gifts and then force them to courier drugs and cash to unfamiliar places in other parts of the country via taxis or public transport.

The work at Stansted was the latest deployment of Operation Bumble, which began in October 2022 to highlight the signs of child exploitation.

Detective Sergeant Mark Ghosh, who coordinates the operation, said: "Drivers need to be aware of that children using taxis could be victims of exploitation.

"Previously, they told us they lacked the knowledge and confidence about who to report to. The positive sign is that now, drivers are showing us they’re keeping the information in their cars and know the signs to look for.

"Some were concerned that they wouldn’t be anonymous so we’re addressing that by directing them to the Children’s Society or Crimestoppers."

The team has also been running training on spotting and reporting exploitation for a number of businesses, including a recent session for Nando’s.


“The more people know about exploitation, the more we can do to safeguard victims,” DS Ghosh added “If a child is being exploited, they may be carrying more than one mobile phone or have a large amount of receipts or cash and can’t explain why they have it in their possession.

“They may be a timid child travelling on their own or, alternatively, confrontational or aggressive because they are scared.

“They may appear out of place and may not know exactly where they’re going – they just know a general area."