Four hundred police officers are now working on child sex grooming cases in Greater Manchester, it has emerged.
Detectives are investigating three other major alleged incidents involving young female victims after doubling the number of officers investigating claims of abuse. It brings the total number of recently completed or on-going investigations into the abuse of teenage girls to six.
Nine men from Rochdale are due to appear in court in the coming weeks after they were charged this week with a series of sexual offences dating back to 2008 including rape involving a single victim.
In May another nine men also from Rochdale and neighbouring Oldham were jailed for a total for 77 years for trafficking and raping young victims the youngest of which was 13.
Meanwhile, officers have made a series of arrests in connection with alleged child exploitation in Stockport. The location of the new investigations has not been disclosed.
Detective Chief Superintendent Mary Doyle, head of Greater Manchester Police’s Public Protection Division, said the inquiries were focused on both individuals and large groups of offenders that were loosely connected to each other.
She said the detection of child sexual exploitation was one of the force’s top priorities.
Police, prosecutors and social services faced severe criticism in the wake of the Rochdale trial this year when it emerged that victims had not been believed and a series of mistakes made.
Ms Doyle said some of the new investigations had arisen from historic allegations while others were based on new complaints.
“We now have a much better understanding of the signs to look for, plus there have been significant improvements in the sharing of information between agencies.
“Also, the widespread publicity surrounding recent cases has ensured that victims, witnesses, carers and the wider community are much more alive now to the threat of child sexual exploitation,” she said.
Much of the public debate has focused on the ethnicity of the perpetrators.
In the Rochdale case, eight of the nine convicted perpetrators were of Pakistani origin and worked in the town’s take-aways and taxi services.
The judge at the trial at Liverpool Crown Court in May said the men had preyed on their victims because they were not part of their community or faith.
However, agencies including the police insist that child sexual exploitation is a crime of opportunity and that 95 per cent of those on the sex offenders’ register in Manchester are white.