Rochdale grooming victims: Police 'could have done more'
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said "it could have done more" for victims of grooming in Rochdale, blaming target-driven policing for "anomalies".
Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said the force was under "significant scrutiny" from police standards watchdogs for its responses to crimes such as burglary.
Since those targets were removed in 2012, officers have been "encouraged" to support sexual exploitation victims.
In 2012, nine men were jailed for running a child sex ring in Rochdale.
Sir Peter's comments follow media reports claimed GMP failed to investigate allegations of abuse by child grooming gangs over a 10-year period.
"About five years ago, GMP was under significant scrutiny from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Home Office Standards Unit for its response to acquisitive crimes such as burglary and car crime.
"As a result, the force was required to focus on improving its performance in relation to those offences," Sir Peter said.
He said the "imposition of targets to drive performance inevitably leads to anomalies in behaviour", adding they were removed two years ago, with the support of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
Last year, a serious case review by the Rochdale Safeguarding Children Board highlighted failures by 17 agencies who were meant to protect the children.
Police and social workers failed the girls who were "passed around for sex" by a gang of men, it said.
Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester, Sir Peter said the force had "completely changed" the way they deal with abuse and vulnerable people.
He said: "Unfortunately there was this big emphasis, particularly around big cities, about trying to improve in the league tables.
"But that is no excuse whatsoever for the fact that a mindset had developed, not only in the police but also in social services and in the Crown Prosecution Service, that this issue of children running away from homes could not be solved.
"We now have multi-agency teams in places like Rochdale. It's not only about investigating the matter and prosecuting the offender, but crucially to try and protect the young person from being involved in more abuse."