Crime tsar Winston Roddick has vowed to step up the fight against child sexual exploitation in North Wales.
The North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner has revealed a new specialist team is being set up to combat the “heinous” offences committed against children.
Details are contained in Mr Roddick’s updated Police and Crime Plan which was drawn up following consultation with the public and the business community.
The Commissioner is also holding a special summit conference on child sexual exploitation at the OpTic Centre in St Asaph on Thursday, May 14, in conjunction with North Wales Police.
He said: “I have chosen to concentrate on new measures in relation to child sexual exploitation because of the prevalence and the escalation in that particular crime.
“This will be a multi-agency team because only by acting in partnership can we be sure that we’re dealing effectively with this heinous crime.
“The force will continue the development of proactive capability in identifying perpetrators of child sexual exploitation, including those accessing indecent images of children through the internet and effective multi-agency working to protect children identified as being at risk.
“I have acted after we saw from the incidents at Rotherham and other parts of the country a staggering amount of child sexual abuse.
“It’s obviously an offence, the face of which has just started to become visible and we need to be alive to it as it could be happening anywhere and everywhere, including North Wales.
“We need to satisfy ourselves, if it is going on in North Wales, we are doing everything we possibly can to stop it or to reassure ourselves that we’ve taken all necessary steps to ascertain whether it’s going on or not and satisfy ourselves that it is not, if that is the case.
“North Wales Police has a good record for identifying emerging crimes and crimes which require specialist teams, for example, the Amethyst Team which concentrated on rape and serious sexual offences.
“The offence is no more prevalent than what it was years ago but the complaints about it have escalated which demonstrates that setting up specialist teams promotes confidence amongst the public and the public will come forward and make the complaint.
“I’m hoping for a similar positive result from the setting up of the team dedicated to complaints of child sexual exploitation.
“North Wales Police is also ahead of the game in establishing a specialist team to deal with cyber-crime ahead of any other force in England and Wales.
“At a time of financial cutbacks, what you’re constrained to do is to re-arrange your priorities and there’s nothing more reassuring for the public to see than that the police is identifying emerging crimes and re-arranging especially to focus on those.”
Other key objectives in the revised Police and Crime Plan include tackling emerging issues like cybercrime and modern slavery.
There would, said Mr Roddick, also be an emphasis on crime prevention, tackling organised crime gangs and improving the lot of victims, including people who have suffered at the hands of abusive partners.
With that in mind, the Commissioner has announced the creation of a new integrated service to help victims that will be coordinated from a new Victim Help Centre due to open in St Asaph in July.
According to Mr Roddick, £26 million of capital investment was earmarked to “provide a police service that’s fit for the 21st century”.
With a new police station already operational in Llangefni on Anglesey, most of the money was for the state-of-the-art police stations planned for Wrexham and Llandudno as well as upgrading the force’s fleet and IT systems.
The Commissioner added: “Overall North Wales Police is doing a very good job in keeping crime down and ensuring that people feel secure in their homes and safe in public places.
“I am not complacent, however, and there is much more to do to ensure the ongoing quality, effectiveness and efficiency of policing in North Wales.”