Page last updated at 06:11 GMT, Monday, 10 May 2010 07:11 UK

Worker's 'surprise' at child sex abuse in Telford

Sex workers
CATE said it had helped children who had been groomed for sexual purposes

Up to 40 children in a Shropshire town have contacted specialist workers who deal with cases of sexual abuse and exploitation.

The number was revealed by Telford and the Wrekin's Children Abused Through Exploitation (Cate) team.

A spokeswoman for Cate said she was "surprised" to find the problem in Shropshire but it highlighted the fact it was a national problem.

Police said they were working to get people to help them tackle the issue.

Children's charity Barnado's produced a report at the end of last year saying its teams around the country were dealing with 609 cases of child exploitation at that time.

The spokeswoman for Cate said she first began working with young people who had been abused 10 years ago in Wolverhampton but had been working in Shropshire for the past two years.

A lot of young people the project has been working with have been victims of trafficking - that could be that they're just moved from one street to another for sexual purposes
Cate spokeswoman

She said although she had been surprised to find cases in Shropshire, she suspected there would be more people affected than was known about.

"I just thought it would be more in major towns and cities," she said.

"Over the last couple of years I'd say we've had contact (with) and supported about 40 young people.

"But I'd say there is probably a few more than that out there locally."

She said she had been working with young people who had been "groomed" by others for sexual purposes or who had been "trafficked" - although not in international terms.

"A lot of young people the project has been working with have been victims of trafficking. That could be that they're just moved from one street to another for sexual purposes," she said.

Targeting 'hotspots'

"It's understanding what trafficking is. It's not just about moving children and young people around into different countries.

"We do have, and have had, problems with young people being moved around within Telford, and also moved around within the Midlands, so it's a big issue."

Det Ch Insp Alan Edwards of West Mercia Police said the force was tackling the issue through "preventative action".

"There are certain hotspots, such as the under 18s discos," he said.

"What we are doing is putting police officers out there who are fully briefed up and who are keeping an eye open for any of this sort of activity."

He said police needed to gather information and intelligence so they could tackle the people committing offences.

"The only way to gather intelligence is getting the community to work with us, which is what we're doing."

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