The constant battle against the street grooming of vulnerable girls has led to a leap in arrests across the Bradford district, it was revealed at the start of a new national body aimed at fighting this kind of sex crime.

At a conference in Bradford yesterday to unveil the Community Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Chief Superintendent Angela Williams, commander of the Airedale and North Bradford police division, said the tally of suspected predators now stood at 90 arrests in the last six months.

She said: “We are now far better placed to tackle this issue and in February there were 16 arrests and another 22 in March alone.

“I feel we have now reached a tippng point – now is a time to make a real difference.”

Chief Supt Williams told the meeting at Manningham Mills community centre that the majority of those arrested were Asian men but police would not shy away from tackling those types of people responsible for street grooming, whatever their ethnic or religious background.

However, she stressed: “I and my officers are absolutely clear that it is not about singling out one particular group”

The Community Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation is a new venture between the Islamic Society of Britain and the civil rights movement Hope Not Hate, and aims to promote joint action against street grooming.

ISB chief executive Julie Siddiqi said they had chosen to unveil the project in Bradford, not because of the city’s problems, but because of the proactive work being done by police, religious groups and communities.

A Keighley mother Angela Sinfield, who has campaigned against sexual grooming, urged everyone to work against what she called “this growing form of organised abuse.”

The Bishop of Bradford, the Right Reverend Nick Baines told the meeting it was time to “grasp the nettle” and press for highlighting the issue locally. The media has a vital role to play in keeping things before us which we don’t want to see,” he said. “I applaud this unprecedented meeting and commend the courage of the Muslim community in addressing this issue.

“They are taking a proactive stance and are willing to engage with such a difficult and sensitive subject rather than brushing it under the carpet.

“This is not a religious issue, but religious leaders have a responsibility and religious traditions have the resources to help tackle such issues, so I’m glad to offer a supportive role, along with that of the churches and the relevant specialist agencies.”

After the meeting, the Bishop’s inter-faith adviser Phil Lewis said it was also important for the Christian church to re-educate people on the importance of moral behaviour.

“We need to raise the ideas of personal and social virtue and the church is investing in schools and out-reach work with youth groups.

“We are putting a lot of effort and money into this,” Mr Lewis said.

In March two men were jailed for a total of 36 years after they were found guilty of raping teenage girls in Keighley after befriending them and plying them with drink and drugs.

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, Bradford Crown Court was told. 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.