BUS drivers in York are being trained to spot vulnerable young people in a bid to prevent child sexual exploitation.

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.

York-based Sergeant Simon Pape said it was hoped bus drivers could become the “eyes and ears of communities”.

He 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.”

Bus drivers are being taught to look out for signs, which may indicate a child is vulnerable or being exploited, such as young people who appear to be in a relationship or inappropriately close to someone significantly older, as well as suspicious patterns of behaviour, including being at unusual locations at abnormal times – especially late at night or during school hours.

They should also be aware of young people using public transport while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and wearing inappropriate clothing and showing signs of sexualised behaviour.

Dot Evans, the council’s head of children’s safeguarding, said: “By training bus drivers to spot the signs of abuse and exploitation we hope that we can help to make children and young people even safer.”

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 to recognise the signs.

The reports enable North Yorkshire Police to identify specific young people who need help, and also any areas that need to be patrolled more closely to prevent crimes or exploitation happening.

Anyone who has any concerns about child sexual exploitation should contact North Yorkshire Police on 999 if a child is in immediate danger, or 101 otherwise.