A SPECIALIST police squad is to be set up to tackle child sexual exploitation across South Yorkshire, as new figures reveal 171 youngsters could be at risk.
The five-strong team will blitz areas where concerns of child grooming have been raised.
Specialist officers will look to identify children at risk of exploitation and attempt to identify offenders.
The crack team will support eight other child sexual exploitation officers working in public protection units.
Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright said he wants the crime tackled as a priority.
Frontline bobbies have been given specialist training to identify signs of children at risk of exploitation and it is to be rolled out to PCSOs and Special Constables.
The county’s police force was criticised last year when confidential police and council files revealed authorities had known of a growing culture of men targeting vulnerable English girls to groom for sex for a decade but few had been prosecuted.
Commissioner Wright said he wants officers to prevent offending, protect children and prosecute.
“The National Child Commission identified there are 16,500 children at risk of child exploitation nationally - there are children in every community vulnerable to this heinous crime and at risk.
“It has been around for decades but awareness has grown and that has translated into extra resources going in to tackling it.
“I would like to see this translate into more people being locked up for these offences.”
Child sexual exploitation officer, Sergeant Jane Fidler, said signs included of exploitation included youngsters committing crimes, coming home with unexplained gifts, changes in personality and missing school.
Story in numbers:
Number of children in Rotherham identified as at risk - 60
Number of children in Sheffield identified as at risk - 85
Amount police chiefs are to spend on extra officers - 500K
Number of child sexual exploitation officers South Yorks will have - 13