A leading Bradford councillor has voiced his horror at new data on child sex trafficking.
National Crime Agency figures show the number of UK-born children identified for trafficking for sexual abuse more than doubled last year.
Councillor Imran Hussain, Bradford Council’s member for community safety, thinks even these figures might not present the full picture and called for new measures to combat modern slavery to be toughened.
Meanwhile, the issue is coming under the spotlight regionally. West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner is organising an event to raise awareness of human trafficking in the county.
The National Crime Agency reports that 56 minors from the UK were flagged up as potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in 2013 – a rise of 155 per cent.
It is not clear if they were being taken out of the country or moved within the UK. The number of foreign children identified as being at risk also rose, by 11 per cent to 88.
Coun Hussain said: “These are very worrying statistics, but some of the increase could be due to increased awareness and reporting of crimes.
“The figures still don’t give us a full picture about abuse of the most vulnerable members of society – often children. It is an issue that deserves full and unequivocal focus and I welcome the NCA’s co-ordinated approach.”
The Home Office is boosting legislation through the Modern Slavery Bill to increase protection for victims.
Coun Hussain welcomed this move. “But I feel this needs to be strengthened as far as possible to give agencies the powers to crack down hard on the criminals involved in this most horrific of crimes,” he said.
“We need to increase awareness to make sure those involved in these crimes are brought to justice and face the full force of the law.”
Coun Hussain said the crime was not a particular problem in Bradford ‘any more than any other city’. “But we need to continue to address it,” he said. “We must not be complacent.”
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said the event he is staging is aimed at enabling a better understanding of the crime.