NEARLY 30 men have been arrested as police in Keighley investigate claims of child sexual exploitation by an alleged grooming gang.
It is one of three major investigations West Yorkshire Police is carrying out into alleged multiple offences of child sexual exploitation, the others being in Leeds and Calderdale.
The inquiry in Keighley has led to 28 men being arrested for alleged offences against four girls.
The issue’s profile has been raised by the scandal in Rotherham, where at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013.
Granville Ward, safeguarding delivery manager for West Yorkshire Police, said: “Extensive work has been ongoing between West Yorkshire Police and partners in recent years to investigate and prevent child sexual exploitation, with the emphasis firmly on experts from agencies working together to put the victim first.
“Police officers meet and work regularly with partners in health and social services in conjunction with safeguarding boards, often from the same offices.
“Bradford has a single referral process and a child-sexual-exploitation hub. This has, in the past, been inspected independently by Ofsted and was one of only three areas in the country to be graded outstanding for partnership working. Both were recorded nationally as systems of best practice.”
Mr Ward said live investigations into alleged offences were ongoing, with 12 men charged in Leeds and those cases going through the courts. In Calderdale, 31 men are on bail for alleged offences against two girls.
There are 65 live CSE investigations in West Yorkshire.
Bradford councillor Ralph Berry, who is in charge of children’s and young people’s services, said an additional £250,000 had been invested into tackling the issue in the city this year.
Cllr Berry said: “Prosecutions and convictions have to happen, but we have to do prevention as well as enforcement. We have commissioned additional services to do work in schools to make pupils aware.
“I do not want to be seen to be complacent. It is the number-one priority for me, for the local authority and for the safeguarding board.”
West Yorkshire Police’s Know The Signs campaign, aimed at raising awareness of the offence, is focusing on online grooming. See westyorkshire. police.uk/cse for details.
If you have information about child sexual exploitation or are a victim, call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.