WEST Yorkshire Police is to set up a dedicated team of officers to deal with child sexual exploitation.
The unit of twenty officers, costing £1.5m, will be embedded in the five policing areas across the county.
The move comes as a number of forces are reeling from accusations that they have ignored the problem of vulnerable young girls being groomed by organised gangs of men, often from Asian communities, for sex.
The neighbouring South Yorkshire force is continuing to deal with a storm of criticism following the Jay Report, published in August, which highlighted how more than 1,400 children had been subjected to exploitation of this kind in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
And West Yorkshire Police themselves have had to deal with questions over what officers knew about the activities of disgraced Leeds-based DJ Jimmy Savile.
Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster said: “This team of officers will be embedded across the five districts of West Yorkshire, working with the safeguarding hubs and working with victims to elicit the information from them, turn that unto evidence, putting their wishes and needs in the centre of the investigation.”
Mr Foster said that, as of last month, there were 84 live CSE investigations ongoing in West Yorkshire. But he stressed that most involved a single offender and victim.
He said: “This is an abhorrent crime which affects the most vulnerable in our society. Protecting children and putting the victim at the heart of everything we do is our primary focus.”
The officer said West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson has allocated £1.5 million to allow the force to recruit a team of investigators.
Mr Foster said: “We will be recruiting them from among recently retired police officers and other individuals who have law enforcement experience, underpinned with the requisite skills to undertake a professional investigation and provide a world-class service to victims.
“I firmly believe that hiring former officers with specialist knowledge of police investigations is the swiftest and most efficient way to increase resources in the here and now to help us tackle these cases and deliver speedier outcomes for victims.”
Mr Burns-Williamson said the increased capacity was essential to deal with complex current and historical investigations.
He 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.”