Greater Manchester Police has launched a dedicated child sexual exploitation investigation unit on National CSE Awareness Day (Thursday 18 March).
They say the GMP Force CSE Unit - which will consist of 54 police officers and staff - has been established in order to commit dedicated specialist skills and resources to investigating large scale and complex CSE investigations.
In addition to investigating large scale and complex cases, the unit will also have strategic oversight of all multi-victim/multi-suspect CSE investigations taking place across Greater Manchester.
A multi-agency approach will see each officer and member of staff work closely with dedicated representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), child & adult social services, mental health services and Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA).
The establishment of the team represents an investment of almost £2.3 million and has been welcomed by senior figures nationally as representing good practice with regards to tackling CSE.
The work of the unit is already underway, with notable investigations including Operation Green Jacket.
'Actions speak louder than words'
Deputy Chief Constable Mabs Hussain said: "I'm incredibly proud to be able to update the public on the latest significant step we are taking to tackle the sexual exploitation of children in Greater Manchester.
"Today, we have launched a new dedicated CSE investigation unit. At full capacity, the unit will be made up of 54 officers and staff whose overriding priority will be to dedicate their specialist skills to investigating large scale and complex CSE investigations.
"This will provide consistency in our approach, as well as a specialist focus on victims and investigations. With this significant dedicated resource we will be able to progress complex investigations in a more focussed and timely manner; allowing us to disrupt, investigate and convict those responsible for this abhorrent crime swifter than we ever have before.
"It is important to note that this team is not the only resource we have to call on in our campaign to tackle the exploitation of children. The work of the unit investigating the most serious and complex cases will be in addition to the work of the 10 Complex Safeguarding Teams currently located in each of our policing districts.
"Actions speak louder than words, and I believe that the establishment of this new dedicated unit clearly demonstrates our ongoing commitment to protecting children and bringing those responsible for abusing them to justice."
'Children have a right to a childhood unmolested and free from fear'
Deputy Mayor for police, crime, criminal justice and fire, Bev Hughes, said: “Child exploitation is a despicable crime and we all have a duty to do all we can to protect children and young people from those who prey on them.
"That’s why, in Greater Manchester, we are committed to challenging relentlessly and continuously evolving the way we work to make sure victims of abuse get the support they need and the justice they deserve.
“GMP has been focused on ensuring the policing response to children exploited is as good as it can possibly be. The launch of this dedicated team will improve even further how large-scale complex investigations are dealt with. It will build on the work of complex safeguarding teams which have already been established in each of the 10 local authorities, bringing together police, social workers, health specialists and others to safeguard young people, support their families and target perpetrators.
“Children have a right to a childhood unmolested and free from fear. If you are worried about a young person or think you have spotted any of the warning signs, please immediately report your concerns to the police.”
'It's vitally important officers have the skills and knowledge to apply a trauma informed approach'
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, NPCC lead for child protection and abuse investigations, said: “Investigating allegations of child sexual abuse and exploitation can be some of the most complex undertaken by policing, and can impact on many victims, involve multiple suspects, and span many years. Often such allegations are backward facing, creating additional challenges in identifying and securing all available evidence.
"Many victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation carry the trauma of that abuse with them through life. It is vitally important therefore, that in addition to understanding and responding to the complex challenges required in undertaking these investigations, that officers have the skills and knowledge to apply a trauma informed approach.
"Recognising the unique challenges and requirements in such investigations, I welcome the establishment of specialist teams who can bring the required skills and experience to investigations of child sexual abuse and exploitation. Such teams are shaped by learning from past investigations, and informed by good practice shared across policing.
"For this reason, victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation should be confident that when they report abuse to policing, they will be listened to, taken seriously, and treated with empathy. The investigation which follows will seek to capture all available evidence, impartially and thoroughly.”