FIVE men have been arrested in connection with a child sexual exploitation investigation.
The men, aged between 21 and 54, were arrested yesterday in the Wigan, Bolton and Salford areas on suspicion of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and human trafficking.
All of the men have been bailed pending further enquiries.
Greater Manchester Police said the arrests are the result of a large investigation into a travelling fun fair which has previously operated at events across Greater Manchester and areas in Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside.
Detective Superintendent Joanne Rawlinson of GMP’s Public Protection Division said: “We have made these arrests as a result of a large scale investigation into the sexual exploitation of children across the North West.
“This remains a top priority for Greater Manchester Police and we take reports of this nature extremely seriously. We have a zero tolerance for this type of offence and we, along with our partners, are prepared to act immediately on any reports that are made.
“Under Project Phoenix, we have a recognised multi-agency response to CSE (child sexual exploitation) which brings together a number of partners who use their expertise to support and safeguard young people who are at risk of exploitation and target those who would try to exploit them.
“If you have any concerns following the arrests made this morning or believe you have information that can assist with this investigation then please contact 0161 856 6020. We have specially trained officers who are available to provide support and put you in touch with other partners who can do the same.”
Superintendent Andrea Jones of GMP’s Bolton Division said: “Our operation today has been successful and I know the local community will be understandably concerned when they hear about this however I would like to assure them that we will be conducting a thorough investigation into these extremely serious offences.
“We take these matters extremely seriously and our first priority will always be to safeguard and offer support to any children who we believe have either been victims or are at risk of exploitation and we will be working closely with our partners to ensure that this happens.
“I would like to thank the public for their continued support and urge anybody who believes they have information that may help this investigation to please contact police.”
Anybody with information should contact police on 0161 856 6020 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
Project Phoenix is a multi-agency response to child sexual exploitation across the whole of Greater Manchester.
The project brings together police, local authorities, NHS and third sector organisations, using their collective expertise to safeguard vulnerable young people at risk of exploitation and target those who would try to exploit them.
Visit itsnotokay.co.uk for information for children, young people, parents, carers and professionals on how to spot the signs of child sex exploitation and what to do about it.