Police vow to tackle child exploitation

CRIME: Crime scene.
CRIME: Crime scene.
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Police chiefs awarded £500,000 a year to crackdown on the sexual exploitation of children hope to have 11 new positions filled by the summer.

The recruitment drive for 10 specialist police officers and an analyst who will identify where trends are emerging is still under way.

Shaun Wright, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, made the extra cash available to South Yorkshire Police after the force was criticised for failing to ‘get a grip’ on child sexual abuse.

The criticism came from the Home Affairs Select Committee last year for a lack of prosecutions for child sexual exploitation by the force.

A dossier of leaked police reports made public highlighted the scale of the problem of young girls being groomed for sex by older men in South Yorkshire, but revealed a lack of police officers to deal with it.

Mr Wright said: “One of my key policing priorities is protecting vulnerable people and my main area of focus around this will be the prevention of child sexual exploitation.

“I have invested an additional half a million pounds to provide extra resources to South Yorkshire Police to help combat this.

“I want to ensure that a more robust warning system is in place at South Yorkshire Police and similarly robust prosecution facilities in place for when abusers are arrested.

“I want to see the full weight of the law bearing down on these serial and organised gangs of abusers.

“In particular, I want this money to protect more children, prevent abuse and see more perpetrators prosecuted.”

The extra money will fund 10 officers who will specialise in investigating cases of child sexual exploitation.

They will be based in multi-agency Public Protection Units across the county, where specialists from a range of agencies will work together to tackle the problem.

All front-line staff will also get additional training to help them identify the warning signs of child sexual exploitation.

Detective Superintendent Phil Etheridge, responsible for overseeing the police response to child sexual exploitation, said: “We are working to make sure the right people for the positions are selected and we are moving towards people being in post by the summer to begin working with partners.”