Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Rotherham sex abuse: More girls at risk

Rotherham Town Hall
Image caption The council said it had stepped up its commitment to tackling the problem

The number of young girls at risk of sexual exploitation in Rotherham has increased, the council has said.

Last year the authority identified 50 potential victims with that figure increasing to 58 this year.

Joyce Thacker, director for children and young people's services, said the rise was down to an improved public awareness of the problem.

In September The Times reported confidential police reports referred to widespread abuse of girls by Asian men.

Ms Thacker said: "We monitor this all the time and at the moment we've got 58 young women who are known to us in terms of social care in relation to child sexual exploitation.

"There are more young women on the fringes of that and we are assessing them in terms of the risk."

The revelation comes as a national report found that thousands of children are sexually abused by gangs and groups in England each year.

The Office of Children's Commissioner study said there were 2,409 victims in the 14 months to October 2011 - but the true number was likely to be far higher.

In November 2010 five Asian men from Rotherham were jailed after being found guilty of grooming young girls for sex.

'Huge priority'

Last month South Yorkshire Police's Chief Constable David Crompton was criticised before the Home Affairs Select Committee, following The Times report which said a confidential 2010 internal police report warned that thousands of such crimes were committed in the county each year.

Ms Thacker said the authority had "really stepped up its commitment" to tackling the problem and it was a "huge priority".

"We always had a dedicated team since about 1997 but in the last year particularly we've stepped it up particularly in terms of social care intervention."

Ms Thacker said more "preventative work" was being done including work with local mosques and education in schools.

South Yorkshire Police said it was working with partners to make "continued improvements to how we recognise and deal with child sexual exploitation in all its forms".

The force said: "With this in mind the force has increased the resources which target this problem with 79 officers working specifically on child abuse related investigations, and eight officers exclusively dedicated to child sexual exploitation."

The council and police said they would look at the recommendations made in the national report on how to deal with the problem.

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