Yorkshire’s largest police force is carrying out 180 separate investigations into child grooming – nearly three times as many as a year ago.
West Yorkshire Police, which said this time last year that it had just 65 probes into ongoing abuse under way, has identified 121 victims and 157 perpetrators of ‘current’ child sexual exploitation (CSE) county-wide.
It has also identified 190 perpetrators and 146 victims of historic abuse during its 40 investigations into ‘legacy’ cases, carried out as police nationwide come under intense pressure to tackle abuse in the wake of the Rotherham and Jimmy Savile scandals.
The dramatic increase has been praised by a leading charity, which warns that every child in the country is “potentially at risk of online exploitation”.
Despite the force facing dramatic budget cuts, extra funds have been invested in West Yorkshire to help police deal with CSE.
The force has employed 24 civilian investigators, many of who are retired detectives and cost less to employ than warranted officers, dedicated to looking into historic offences.
They are helping the existing officers by gathering statements and evidence relating to older cases of alleged abuse, many of which date back to times when police lacked today’s techniques to investigate grooming and did not view it is a priority.
This allows the force, which has lost 1,000 officers since 2010, to carry out time-consuming historic investigations while still looking at current cases, according to the Police Federation.