The problem of Asian males grooming girls for prostitution in Britain
DOZENS of underage girls are being groomed into prostitution and drug taking by predatory males operating in East Lancashire.
The Evening Telegraph can exclusively reveal girls as young as 12 have been targeted by gangs of men who pay the youngsters in cash, drugs, cigarettes and drink for sexual favours.
Police revealed in the past year, around 50 East Lancashire victims aged under 16 had been identified by special police and social services teams set up to combat the menace but they believe as many as 100 could be involved.
Many of the youngsters go missing from home each week to spend time with men who have groomed them for sex.
Officers said the predators, who initially approach the girls on the street, are predominantly Asian and community leaders have joined the fight to tackle the issue.
Police stressed, however, that the issue of grooming also involved men, predominantly white, who target girls through the internet.
Blackburn MP Jack Straw today expressed his deep concern and said he would be raising the matter immediately with the Home Office.
He said: "I was frankly unaware of the scale of this problem until the Lancashire Evening Telegraph highlighted it but it is one that we all must now address including the Asian community."
Supt Neil Smith of Lancashire Police said: "This is not a racist issue. It is about the exploitation of vulnerable young girls for sex.
"The majority of cases involve Asian males but there are also a significant proportion of cases involving white men using the internet.
"We are taking this matter extremely seriously and will take positive action to deal with the problem."
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