More than 100 children in Blackpool were identified as being at risk of falling into the clutches of predatory paedophiles in just six months, police have revealed today.
Between October 2012 and March 2013, concerns were raised about 113 children on the Fylde coast by parents, teachers, friends and youth workers, new figures show.
Lancashire Police has today released the findings as they launch a week-long offensive against child grooming across the county.
In addition to raids on suspects, the crackdown will focus on people who put children at risk, such as adults who provide alcohol. The organisations involved, such as leisure centres and schools, will alert a range of people who interact with youngsters and may be able to spot the first signs they are being groomed.
In the three years to March 2013, police checked out 1,000 youngsters in Western Division which covers Blackpool, after they were flagged up as potential victims by the town’s specialist anti-child sexual exploitation team Awaken.
The lives of a further 400 suspected paedophiles in the area were also looked at under the microscope following concerns raised about their behaviour.
The Awaken team was launched in 2003 after 14-year-old Charlene Downes disappeared and was feared to have become the victim of child sexual exploitation.
But the figures show a big reduction has been seen in child sexual exploitation in the division over the past three years. Det Supt Ian Critchley, of Lancashire Police, said: “Tackling child sexual exploitation and grooming is an absolute priority.
“We receive around 1,200 referrals each year in Lancashire, right through to the most serious offences of child rape and abduction.
“The awareness week is about highlighting what we do.
“We want children, parents and carers to recognise these types of crime are occurring, whether it is through the internet, a group or gang, or a boyfriend. Victims come from all ethnicities, though most are white girls.
“Around eight per cent are boys.”