You are in:


Report 9 of the 16 July 2009 meeting of the Communities, Equalities and People Committee, outlines the preparations currently underway by the MPS in relation to women’s safety during the 2012 Olympic Games.

Warning: This is archived material and may be out of date. The Metropolitan Police Authority has been replaced by the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC).

See the MOPC website for further information.

Women's Safety and the Policing of the 2012 Olympics

Report: 9
Date: 16 July 2009
By: Chief Executive


The report outlines the preparations currently underway by the Metropolitan Police Service in relation to women’s safety during the 2012 Olympic Games.

A. Recommendation

That Members

  1. invite the MPS to provide a paper to the MPA Communities Equalities and People Committee in November 2009. The paper should provide an update on any changes in the intelligence picture on violence against women [1] (particularly trafficking) in the context of the Olympics, and outline how they intend to strategically draw together the current work described below.

B. Supporting information


1. The responsibility of the Metropolitan Police Service [2] to ensure that the 2012 Olympics Games are safe and secure for everyone is a substantial one, particularly in an unprecedented climate of economic challenge and terrorist threat. London will experience an influx of athletes, visitors, and site workers prior to and during the Games. By the time of the 2012 Opening Ceremony around 100,000 people will be working on the Games, 10,500 athletes will be competing, 20,000 press and media will be present and 9 million tickets will be held by spectators [3].

2. There is considerable international evidence to suggest that such an increase in population in the context of the Games may have an impact on women’s safety. Politicians, national and international media have made considerable note in recent years of the implications to women’s safety of international sporting events. There are three main areas which could be identified as specific risks to women which impact on policing 2012. These are;

3. Increased demand for prostitution from site workers, visitors, and athletes: The European Parliament recognized in their resolution passed on March 15 2006 that major sporting events result in a ''temporary and spectacular increase in the demand for sexual services” [4].

4. Increase in sex trafficking (linked to increase in prostitution) in response to demand from visitors and workers on site, and even prior to sporting events: At the Greek Olympics in 2004 researchers found a 95% increase in the number of human trafficking victims identified by the Greek Ministry of Public Safety. Greece made no effort to control or manage trafficking [5].

5. Increased consumption/ abuse of alcohol is likely to contribute to higher reporting of domestic violence incidents, and possibly also of rape and sexual assault: The Home Office website notes [6]; there is a need for police awareness of domestic violence as a factor when planning for major sporting events in the same way as public order issues are considered. Additionally anecdotal evidence about the increase in sexual violence during Olympics and other sporting events is supported by research on US athletes [7] and the adoption in 2007 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of a Consensus Statement on “Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport” [8].

The Olympic Security Strategy and Concept of Operations

6. The unprecedented demand of policing of the Olympics has led to the creation of a specialist directorate, to ensure that the MPS works as a corporate structure across London but also is responsive to local need in the 5 Olympic boroughs, as well as transport hubs and other areas. This directorate produced an Olympic Security Strategy (OSS) and accompanying Concept of Operations (CONOPS) which outlines how the strategy will be delivered.

7. The OSS rightly assesses the most severe threat to the Games to be terrorism, and much of the strategy focuses on the management of this risk. It sets out what the MPS intends to deliver during the Games at both the venues and associated sites. CONOPS notes that evidence from previous Games suggests that the large visiting Olympic workforce can lead to an increase in demand for prostitution, and further makes reference to any increase in trafficking as a reputational risk.

8. The issue of violence (against everyone) is covered under the ‘protect’ work stream. However within this work stream the focus on protection is within the context of a terrorist attack. The CONOPS section on the ‘Identify and Disrupt’ work stream outlines how the MPS will identify and respond to threats to safety and security, notably including serious and organised crime and volume crime, and it is under this work stream that the CONOPS refers to ensuring a response to threats which may cause harm, or damage the reputation of the Games, including human trafficking and street prostitution.

9. Within the ‘Engage’ section the CONOPS identifies the need to work with communities in the UK, and international partners to support intelligence gathering and responds to emerging issues, which would (it is hoped) include the impact on communities of an increased sex industry and any associated increased disturbance or anti-social behaviour.

10. The response from the Olympics Directorate to queries on the subject notes that there is not sufficient intelligence on any specific threats to women in relation to the 2012 Games to warrant inclusion in strategic and operational plans originating from the Olympics Directorate, and it is accepted that the priorities of the Olympics Directorate lie elsewhere.

Central Operations - Clubs and Vice (CO14)

11. The Clubs and Vice command is demonstrating a proactive approach to the possible increase in trafficked victims around 2012. Operational activity is already underway in the 5 host boroughs , and although there is a slight increase in number of victims being currently identified by CO14 in the 5 host boroughs [9], there is not sufficient intelligence to confirm that this is linked to the Olympics. However as 2012 draws closer, the Vice unit intends to focus operations across the 5 host boroughs, which will be supported by a bid to provide a specialist team for those boroughs [10]. CO14 operate using proactive, intelligence-led investigations, enabling them to mount ‘victimless’ prosecutions in a similar fashion to those conducted with victims of domestic abuse where the victim is too afraid or otherwise unwilling to support prosecution.

12. There are also efforts underway to prevent trafficking at the source, or ‘upstream’. Officers from CO14 visited Lithuania in April to raise awareness of Lithuanian women trapped in the British sex industry and gave a presentation to the government and non-governmental organisations. This resulted in an agreement to work together to prevent trafficking occurring at the source, and MPS officers providing training and workshops to women and girls in schools, youth groups and colleges. A bid is underway for funding from the EU to continue this work in other countries of origin.

13. CO14, like Operation Maxim and Operation Paladin as described below, on occasion carries national responsibility. With regards to building a national picture of trafficking, CO14 will be leading on Project ACUMEN, which is sponsored by the ACPO lead for trafficking and immigration crime, Graham Maxwell of South Yorkshire. The project intends to use intelligence units nationally to provide the most accurate estimates available on the number of people trafficked into the UK, for both sexual exploitation and forced labour.

Territorial Policing- CSU Delivery Team and BOCUs

14. The CSU Delivery Team holds responsibility for ensuring that policy is adhered to across the 32 boroughs in relation to hate crime investigation, including domestic violence. The team will be working with the Olympics Directorate to reissue and reinforce the guidelines for officers in responding to domestic abuse, and across the wider violence against women and hate crime agenda. Discussion with the Australian authorities revealed that in terms of the athletes village domestic abuse was not a significant issue, but an increase in sexual violence did take place [11].

15. Therefore a clear communication strategy from the MPS will need to be developed which takes into account the diverse audience, including London residents, visitors, and athletes. The team have commissioned GLDVP to conduct a scoping exercise of violence against women across the MPS which aims to capture organisational learning and could be used to support messages from the CSU Delivery Team.

16. Some Borough Operational Command Units (BOCUs) are demonstrating a proactive approach in relation to trafficking. The Chief Inspector in Redbridge is putting forward a bid for funding for Independent Sexual Violence Advisors specifically targeting human trafficking within the Olympic area of East London. The intention is to install preventative measures and support intrusive investigation, rescuing women and children sold into the trade [12].

17. Redbridge BOCU is accessing intelligence from within the local community, which will also feed into the project. The aim is to provide a multi-agency response in which housing, tax, and immigration agencies and authorities will work together to disrupt criminal networks before they have an opportunity to flourish.

Territorial Policing- Safer Neighbourhoods

18. Plans have been outlined by the Olympic Security Directorate for the delivery of bespoke training workshops, around possible areas of additional responsibility or risk linked to the Olympics for Safer Neighborhood Teams across the five host boroughs. This training would include immigration issues and trafficking. However it is understood this project is currently on hold.

19. Operation Swale is also located within TPHQ and is a dedicated team of officers based in Croydon who work with the Borders and Immigration Agency to tackle immigration crime. They can come across trafficking issues and also work consistently to tackle trafficking from an ‘upstream’ immigration perspective to prevent victims coming to the country or stop the process at the borders. Their main focus is immigration crime and therefore they would not be best placed to deal with trafficking victims.

Specialist Crime – Operations Pentameter 2 and Maxim (SCD6)

20. Operation Pentameter 2 aims to ‘rescue and protect victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and to identify, disrupt, arrest and bring to justice those involved in criminal activity’ [13]. This is a UK-wide, multi-agency operation which includes the police, SOCA [14], the UK Human Trafficking Centre, the Poppy Project [15] and others. However for the purposes of this paper Operation Maxim is the more relevant operational activity for the MPS.

21. Operation Maxim within SCD6 contains the Human Trafficking Team (HTT), which until recently was the only police service team in the UK to specialise in human trafficking. The HTT provides support across London in addition to conducting its own operations. Staffed by 11 officers, the team has received 240 referrals from boroughs since 2007. It should be noted that the HTT’s remit is not only trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and where trafficked women are forced into prostitution they can fall under the remit of Clubs and Vice, depending on who has primacy in the investigation. Most of the MPS human trafficking cases are related to the sex trade [16].

22. The MPS Human Trafficking Team in 2008/9 dealt with 14 operations on the Olympic Boroughs as well as providing advice on 21 occasions to the Olympic Boroughs in relation to human trafficking. A direct link cannot currently be established between these matters and the Olympics other than location. The team will continue to monitor intelligence that may demonstrate links to the Olympics with regards human trafficking [17].

23. The HTT are currently arranging and conducting briefings for front line police officers on the 5 host boroughs to raise awareness of trafficking and support the identification of trafficked victims by increasing understanding of the indicators associated with trafficking. In relation to upstream prevention efforts, the HTT have also been proactive in engaging with governments and countries that many other trafficking units have been unsuccessful with, for example Nigeria, and is working with the Nigerian authorities to discover how victims are recruited there, and the routes taken by traffickers to Europe [18].

24. Members will be aware that Cmdr O’Brien is leading a MPS-wide review of immigration services which will include Operation Maxim, and that future funding for the HTT is currently unstable [19] , despite being considered the most effective UK unit dealing with trafficking by the UK Human Trafficking Centre [20].

Specialist Crime – Operation Paladin (SCD5)

25. Operation Paladin is located in the MPS Child Abuse Investigation Command (SCD5) and aims to identify child victims entering the UK. It is a multi-agency team consisting of 6 police officers and 2 border agency staff and has been in operation since 2004, and has been singled out as an example of best practice [21]. It works closely with children’s services and liaises with other relevant public agencies and NGOs and with commercial companies (such as the airlines) to raise awareness and identify children at risk. They also provide training to Child Abuse Investigation Teams (CAITs) to support raising awareness and what to do if they suspect a child has been trafficked.

26. Operation Paladin doesn’t have the capacity to establish links internationally but is aware that there could be additional risks relating to the Olympics. However it is important to note that child trafficking has different indicators to those related to adult trafficking with a lower proportion of victims trafficked for sexual exploitation and more for domestic slavery and benefit fraud. However child trafficking for sexual exploitation is harder to spot because the networks that support it are so closed, such as paedophile rings and brothels that offer children, whereas benefit fraud is less structured and organised.

27. Paladin, like Maxim, states that there is little current evidence that there is an increase in trafficking related to the Olympics or within the 5 host boroughs [22]. However they are clear that the likelihood of increase is possible as the Olympics draws closer and are monitoring the situation. One concern is that if there is an increase the team is so small it is unlikely to be able to respond without more capacity. If capacity could be increased in relation to Olympics they would like to increase presence in City airport and St Pancras around Olympics.

Specialist Crime – Sapphire

28. The restructure of the Sapphire project, which conducts rape investigations across London into a bespoke command unit, has been welcomed by many of the officers working to combat trafficking. Both Clubs and Vice and the HTT make use of SOITs in their operations and joint working is already in place, indeed many of their officers are SOIT trained. For them, the move to SCD supports the closure of a possible operational gap. SCD2 will continue to provide training to CO14 officers to support their investigations.

MPA and external organisations

29. MetForward, the strategic programme that outlines the MPA priorities for the coming years identifies that the HTT will continue to be funded by the MPA and that the MPA will be engaged with the Equality and Human Rights Commission Olympic sex trafficking strategy.

30. The MPA has some responsibility to ensure that these issues are being addressed by the MPS, though it is recognised that this area sits across different committees. As part of the MPS wider role in tackling violence against women and as an equality issue it would sit well here with CEP, though obviously there could be a role for the Olympics sub-committee as well. Members are invited to discuss which they feel is most appropriate.

31. The pan-London Mayoral Violence Against Women Strategy identified the possible impact of the Games on human trafficking and pledges that the Mayor will work with the MPS to ‘get tough’ on trafficking. One of the actions that accompany this recommendation states that the Mayor will ‘champion a more sustained anti-trafficking operation for London’. The delivery plan for the strategy will be outlined following the close of the consultation period and the final strategy launched.

32. In April, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission held the first multi-agency roundtable event to discuss the creation of a sustainable network of agencies with a remit around trafficking and/ or prostitution. The MPS Human Trafficking Team was presented at this first meeting. This is ongoing and a further meeting will be scheduled in July to discuss the terms of reference for such a network. The MPA, GLA, and EHRC will now jointly support this work.

33. The Poppy Project, which works with women trafficked into the UK and provides them with support, housing, and advocacy will also be working closely with the MPS and hoping to increase capacity and focussed work around the 2012 Olympics.


34. It is clear that there are considerable and proactive efforts of high quality underway to combat the potential impact on women’s safety of the 2012 Olympics Games, particularly in relation to an influx of trafficking victims prior to and during the Olympic Games. Whilst potential risk is identified within the Olympics strategy, thus far the intelligence picture required to respond proactively across the MPS does not exist to the extent that would warrant the re-allocation of resources into a pan-London response. However there has been a considerable proactive operational response to the potential risk, which is fragmented across the various areas which carry responsibility for violence against women and the Olympics.

35. However what is less clear is how the disparate elements of the MPS are working together to combat trafficking and other forms of violence against women which may be linked to the Olympics, and to discourage overlaps and fill gaps. The debate as to who would take ownership within the MPS of such a strategic responsibility remains open. It is accepted that the Olympics Directorate have very specific priorities and responsibilities which do not necessarily converge with this agenda. However it could be noted that as this issue cuts across many business areas, it could benefit from focussed leadership and/or a single strategic point of contact.

36. This could be achieved by ensuring that senior representatives from the Olympics Directorate are engaged with the EHRC network as described in paragraph 32. This would ensure that both strategic and operational representatives from the Olympics Directorate and units with responsibility for violence against women would come together with other agencies to manage the risk, without having to put in place a resource intensive programme of work (unless the intelligence picture suggested this was necessary).

37. As several high profile newspapers have identified, the eyes of the world will be on London during 2012 and the possibility of damage to reputation of not only the MPS but London and the UK is considerable. This was recently demonstrated by the discovery that 77 Chinese children had been trafficked into the UK and ‘lost’ by a care home in Hillingdon [23]. The volume of incidents and opportunities for criminal activity are likely to increase, so it is therefore incumbent on the MPS to demonstrate clearly that all areas of reputational risk, risk to the public, and to vulnerable women in relation to the Olympics is proactively addressed.

C. Race and equality impact

38. It is recognised that the most obvious equality and diversity implication here is in the context of gender equality. It is widely accepted that violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality. It should also be stressed that victims of trafficking are likely to be impacted on by a number of other equality and diversity issues; by definition trafficked individuals will mostly be from countries and communities around the world, rather than UK nationals. They may therefore face a number of barriers in accessing safety and support.

39. The MPS is in the process of trialling the Equality Standard for the Police Service, the intention of which is to support mainstreaming of equality into operational delivery and is focused on outcomes and replicating ‘what works’ so it should also provide practical support to delivery of Government PSAs [24]. There is little evidence of equality and diversity issues actively considered throughout the Olympic Security Strategy and CONOPS, with the exception of physical access for disabled individuals.

40. Whilst the MPS Diversity and Citizen Focus Directorate have been consulted with respect to the Olympic Security Strategy and CONOPSs, it is noted that an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) would identify what further work could be done. However the completion of an EIA after the Strategy is outlined defeats the intention of EIAs to support the integration of equality and diversity issues to be managed as they are identified in the document. The DCFD have also commented that units do conduct their own internal EIAs when preparing for operations and these may have taken place in relation to the proactive work outlined above.

D. Financial implications

41. The financial implications for the MPA are minimal. Oversight of this area is resourced in terms of officer and committee requirements. Possible implications in the future are in relation to the management of the budget of the MPS and are dependent on the demands and allocation of the Olympics budget in the years leading up to 2012. If the situation remains broadly the same, the MPS could choose to maintain the current situation in which fragmented responses are spread within existing units and resources. Should the intelligence picture require other resources, the implications will be for the MPS to manage their budget accordingly to accommodate their chosen response. Bids placed for external funding will be resourcing some of the proactive operations outlined above.

E. Background papers


F. Contact details

Report author(s): Lynne Abrams, Oversight and Review, MPA

For information contact:

MPA general: 020 7202 0202
Media enquiries: 020 7202 0217/18


1. Violence against women includes intimate partner abuse, rape and other forms of sexual violence, prostitution and sexual exploitation, trafficking, forced marriage and so-called ‘honour’ crimes. [Back]

2. In partnership with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympics Games (LOCOG), the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), and a number of Government Departments and Committees. [Back]

3. The London 2012 Organising Committee [Back]

4. The Future Group, 2007 “Faster, Higher, Stronger: Preventing Human Trafficking at the 2010 Olympics” [Back]

5. The Times, Influx of workers and prostitutes for Olympics raises sexual health fears, 17 March 2008 [Back]

6. Lessons Learned from the Domestic Violence Enforcement Campaigns, 2006 [Back]

7. The male athlete and sexual assault, Eskenazi, 1990 [Back]

8. International Olympic Committee press release, 8 February 2007 [Back]

9. The host boroughs are Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest [Back]

10. Information from DCS Richard Martin, CO14. [Back]

11. Information from DCI Gerry Campbell, CSU Delivery Team. [Back]

12. Information from CI Paige Kimberley, Redbridge BOCU. [Back]

13. [Back]

14. Serious and Organised Crime Agency [Back]

15. The Poppy Project, run by Eaves, provides support and accommodation to trafficked women and training and information including research for professionals. [Back]

16. Home Affairs Select Committee, as above. [Back]

17. Information from DCI John Kielty, Operation Maxim [Back]

18. Ibid. [Back]

19. Funding from the MPA was identified for a further year in 2008 - 2009. Following the publication of the Home Affairs Select Committee report on Human Trafficking the government stated the budget for the HTT would increase. However there has been no clarification on where this funding will come from. [Back]

20. Home Affairs Select Committee, as above. [Back]

21. Home Affairs Select Committee, Sixth Report of session 2008 – 2009, The Trade in Human Beings; Human Trafficking in the UK. [Back]

22. Information from DI Gordon Valentine, Operation Paladin. [Back]

23. Guardian, 05 May 2009, ‘Revealed: 77 trafficked Chinese children lost by home’. [Back]

24. NPIA Equality Standard for the Police Service: October 2008 briefing [Back]

Send an e-mail linking to this page