Sex abuse gangs in Black Country: 'Significant similarities' to Rotherham scandal, say police
Children in the Black Country are being sexually exploited, with gangs similar to those in Rotherham operating in the West Midlands, says a police report.
The heavily-redacted findings reveal there are 'significant similarities' between child sex abuse here and the scandal in Yorkshire.
The findings are revealed in a West Midlands Police report entitled Child Sexual Exploitation, which was produced in October last year but has only now been made public.
Organised gangs, typically of Asian origin, are targeting victims at childrens homes and schools
They are also using hotels and parks for house parties to abuse youngsters
Victims are usually, but not always, white females aged 13-16
210 children or young people were sexually exploited or at risk of sexual exploitation in the West Midlands in the first six months of 2014
It is marked as 'restricted' and large sections of information have been redacted – blacked out.
In Wolverhampton, the city council's processes are criticised and the report states: "Inference: There are significant numbers of child sex exploitation victims that are not identified by the Wolverhampton local authority."
A map showing two 'clusters' where there have been 'high concentrations' of 'referrals' in the city is among the items to have been covered up. Certain postcodes and a list of areas in Wolverhampton have also been redacted.
None of the councils in Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell and Dudley have escaped criticism in the report, which was compiled in October last year but has only now been made available to the public.
Other hotspots in the region are Lye, Brierley Hill, Tipton, Smethwick and Rowley Regis in Sandwell, Willenhall and Walsall town centre.
But council bosses don't know how many children are being abused and some of the information needed to identify abuse is 'non-existent'.
West Midlands Police said officers 'across the force' had in the past year been trained how to deal with child sex exploitation and tackling the problem was a 'top priority'.
The force recently created 10 'child sex exploitation co-ordinator' roles, one for each on its 10 local policing units.
Assistant Chief Constable Carl Foulkes said: "Child sex exploitation affects all communities and remains a top priority for us – nothing is more important in policing than protecting vulnerable people.
"The responsibility of tackling this lies with every police officer, staff member, PCSO and special constable.
"Over the last 12 months the force has carried out extensive work to train officers across the force in identifying and dealing with child sex exploitation so we can improve the outcomes for victims.
"A primary role of a co-ordinator is to review all missing and absent child records and record the incident appropriately.
"If the assessment is that the child has been exposed to child sex exploitation, Children's Services are informed and a professionals meeting is conducted, whereby all details and information is shared."
All the Black Country councils have come under fire for not sharing enough information about potential victims.
The 125-page report was released by West Midlands Police after a Freedom of Information request. But lots of details remain redacted. It reveals that between January and June last year, 210 children were identified by councils as having been 'sexually exploited or at risk of sexual exploitation'. But a lack of processes to identify potential victims means there could be many more slipping through the net.
Police said it was 'difficult' to say how many were being abused, or at risk of being abused. The report compares the situation to Rotherham, where at least 1,400 youngsters were sexually exploited by gangs between 1997 and 2013. It states: "An assessment of all child sex exploitation profiles produced by West Midlands Police since 2010 identifies a consistent profile in relation to victims, locations and offenders. There are significant similarities to the Rotherham victim/offender and location profiles. It remains difficult to quantify how many child abuse crimes or incidents have actually occurred within the West Midlands."
Offenders are said to be typically Asian, of Pakistani origin, aged 17 to 40. Most victims are white females aged 13 to 16.
Many are known for going missing. The report adds: "Targeting of victims takes place mainly at children's homes and schools. Offending typically takes place in private houses or hotels often under the guise of 'house' parties. Offences also take place in parks."
At the time of the report, there was 'no specific process' for identifying child sexual exploitation in Wolverhampton. Bosses insist this has now been rectified. Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: "The way to tackle hidden crimes is to bring them into the open. I am pleased this information is in the public domain."