West Yorkshire Police this week welcomes a new team of investigators appointed to focus on safeguarding and Child Sexual Exploitation cases.
Backed by a £1.5 million investment over the next two years from West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, 30 investigators with extensive experience from a policing or social care background are to be appointed and given specialist training at the Force’s Training and Development Centre at Carr Gate.
Following initial training, they will join dedicated district policing teams boosting capacity to deal with complex and challenging historical investigations.
The cash, from the £3.5million pledged by Mark Burns-Williamson to West Yorkshire Police for increased capacity to deal with CSE, human trafficking and cyber crime, was allocated earlier this year as part of the annual budget setting building on the safeguarding resources already in place.
PCC Mark Burns-Williamson said “I want victims and witnesses, in particular those who are most vulnerable, to always come first and any young person who has been a victim or a witness of this sexual exploitation should have the confidence to come forward, trust that their voice will be heard and be justified in believing that the responsible authorities will make sure they and others are supported and kept safe.
“Hiring former officers and experts from a child social care background with specialist knowledge of investigations and child protection issues is a good way to increase resources immediately to tackle cases and support victims. The money was agreed as part of the budget setting for 2014/15 and in that sense isn’t a surprise.
“It is all around strengthening and building on the safeguarding response in West Yorkshire certainly with increased awareness because of the Savile Inquiry and Operation Yewtree and the increased reporting of sexually related offences as a result. I have been meeting regularly with safeguarding experts from across West Yorkshire and this also sends out a strong message around pursuing offenders of these shocking crimes that blight the lives of children in our communities”
Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster, of West Yorkshire Police, said “Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is the number one priority for West Yorkshire Police and features in the Police and Crime Plan. This is an abhorrent crime which affects the most vulnerable in our society – protecting children and putting people at the heart of everything we do is our primary focus.
“Ourselves and our partners have raised the awareness of CSE, which together with the increased profile in the media, particularly in respect of celebrity perpetrators has had a positive impact with people who have historically been the victim of child abuse coming forward to report such offences. The Force has run a high profile ‘Know The Signs’ campaign since 2013 to raise awareness with our communities of CSE.
“West Yorkshire Police have realigned resources to investigate these offences and have built upon existing relationships with our statutory partners and third sector agencies to ensure that we take a joined up approach to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.
“While enquiries into cases have been continuing, we have also been determining ways of boosting our capacity to investigate this growing number of reported offences.
“As a result the Police and Crime Commissioner has announced an investment of £1.5-million to allow the Force to recruit a team of investigators to progress enquiries in these cases. They have been recruited from among recently retired police officers and other individuals who have law enforcement and child social care experience, underpinned with the requisite skills to undertake a professional investigation and provide high levels of service and support to victims.”