More than 1,000 West Midlands children at risk of sex exploitation
More than 1,000 children are at risk of being groomed for sex in the West Midlands, police have warned.
There are 70 active criminal investigations with 113 suspects and at least 70 victims.
West Midlands Police say the number of children at risk has increased by 11 per cent with 52 deemed to be 'entrenched' in sexual exploitation.
Homes, hotels, parks and fast food outlets are cited as places where exploitation takes place. In total 1,059 children have been identified as at risk of sex exploitation.
It comes after a number of sex grooming scandals across the country that have centred on vulnerable white girls and typically Asian and Muslim male offenders.
But West Midlands Police Chief Constable Dave Thompson said the ethnicity of suspects in the region was of 'all backgrounds'.
Meanwhile reports of child abuse have increased by 77 per cent over the last three years to 21,352 cases in 2016/17.
The figures were revealed in a report entitled 'Hidden Crime and Reporting' produced by Assistant Chief Constable Alex Murray.
The document also looks at domestic violence, honour-based crime, and modern day slavery.
Addressing child sexual exploitation, Mr Murray said: "Any location could be vulnerable. Anywhere there are children or anywhere hidden and inconspicuous.
"West Midlands Police identify and disrupt locations that are vulnerable to the potential for child sexual exploitation, especially with the increase in online abuse and grooming, historically safer places can now contain risk as children may have significant unrestricted time with internet enabled mobile, computer and gaming devices for example in education settings and their own homes.
"WMP highlight potential locations and based on the information and intelligence a decision is made around tactics to disrupt any activity at the location.
"Over 50 locations across the West Midlands Police region have been identified and will be considered for disruptive action as a result of intelligence or information relating to child sexual exploitation."
"Officers who own child sexual exploitation investigations are all trained detectives and undergo serious and complex suspect and witness interview training.
"The newly formed Detective Academy enables detectives to complete advanced training modules giving them the skills to develop a strong investigative mind-set."
On child abuse, he added: "West Midlands Police is committed to early intervention and the prevention of harm to children. Using data from police and social care, child maltreatment has been profiled across the region.
"Working alongside family support, health and partners from the voluntary sector, we will work jointly to intervene early and support families to prevent harm to children.
"In addition, the force has begun trials in Dudley of early information sharing with schools when their pupils have been exposed or subject to domestic abuse allowing teachers to provide crucial support."