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54 arrested in crackdown on grooming of young girls for sex
A police chief has revealed that 54 suspects have been arrested across the Bradford district in the last five months by officers investigating cases of predatory paedophiles.
Speaking after the jailing of two child rapists, who travelled to Keighley to groom and snare their victims, Chief Superintendent Angela Williams pledged to work with the whole community to improve youngsters’ safety.
“There are ongoing investigations into similar crimes – including another case in Keighley – and since October there have been 54 arrests within the Bradford district,” said Chief Supt Williams.
And she stressed this was a sign that police tactics were working to cut out the grooming of vulnerable teenage girls – not a signal of increased paedophile activity.
“Those arrests prove success because they show the system is working. Success breeds success and I firmly believe we have reached a tipping point – particularly in the fact that more and more children now feel able to talk to us,” she said.
And the new commander for the Airedale and North Bradford division has a keen personal interest in protecting the area’s children as she was born and raised close to Lund Park, Keighley, one of the sites where perverts Shazad Rehman and Bilal Hussain preyed on girls as young as 14.
Chief Supt Williams said: “I really care about Keighley – I was born and brought up here.
“I went to a local primary school not far from Lund Park.
“So I know these streets and have childhood memories of the town.”
Speaking as a parent with a teenage daughter, Chief Supt Williams urged others with children to join the police and other agencies in the fight against child sexual exploitation by being vigilant for tell-tale signs of potential problems.
“Luckily we have a very open relationship and talk about everything, so as a mum myself, I know it is important to keep an eye on what’s going on,” she said.
Chief Supt Williams said: “We currently have some 70 children, the majority being girls, who are identified as vulnerable or potentially at risk of sexual exploitation in Bradford district.”
And she asked any children with concerns not to hesitate in speaking out about any anxieties.
“I would encourage them to speak to friends, family, carers or teachers and if it needs to come to the police then we will deal with it carefully and seriously,” said Chief Supt Williams.
“We have a new central hub at Javelin House Police Station, Eccleshill, which has a family room which is nothing like a police station where all different agencies and people can get together and talk things through.
“But there is no need to even go to a police station, which can be intimidating, we can always meet elsewhere.”
Chief Supt Williams said the police were aware of networks which exist between paedophile groups.
“Obviously I cannot discuss ongoing cases, but we are aware of networks and how those involved work in an organised and deliberate fashion,” she said.
“However in the recent case we are not aware of any family, business or leisure links between the two men and Keighley or why they chose to come here.
“It could just have been a convenient place far enough from their local area for them not to be known and where they could carry out their sordid attacks and get home easily.”
“Their heavy sentences should send out a message that we have the technology and the tactics to trace and catch anyone coming into the area.”
Chief Supt Williams said although both men were Asian, that was not viewed as a significant factor in the actual crime.
“While we, of course, acknowledge their ethnicity, what we are dealing with is paedophiles regardless of their background,” she said.
“That is why we will work with every part of the community and welcome information and help from all people,” she said. “I care about Keighley – we all care about Keighley.”
l Shazad Rehman and Bilal Hussain raped a 14-year-old-girl “one after the other” and each raped other teenage girls after luring them into cars.
Rehman, 30, of no fixed address, was jailed for 18 and a half years and Hussain, 23, of Neville Road Avenue, Leeds, was jailed for 17 and a half years by a Bradford Crown Court judge last week.