POLICE raided 14 addresses across Oxford this morning to try to crack a suspected organised child exploitation gang.
Twelve men, aged between 21 and 37 years old, were arrested on suspicion of a variety of offences including causing the prostitution of females under the age of 18, administrating drugs for the purpose of rape, trafficking, grooming and rape.
They are currently all in police custody.
The raids were carried out as part of Operation Bullfinch, an investigation into child exploitation on 24 girls aged between 11 and 16 years old in Oxford.
The joint investigation, carried out by Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council’s Children, Education and Families Department, was aimed at rescuing potential victims and securing convictions of suspects.
Det Supt Rob Mason, spokesperson for the operation, said: “We believe we have uncovered an organised crime group who have been running a business of selling young girls for sex. We have also identified a number of customers who we have reason to believe have used this service.
“We believe the offending spans over a six-year period.
“Our number one priority is to protect the victims, both their identities and wellbeing.”
Councillor Louise Chapman, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “Thames Valley Police and the Oxfordshire County Council’s children’s social care team linked up swiftly when it became apparent that it would be dealing with an investigation that centred on child exploitation.
“This prompt action allowed children’s social care workers to work in close partnership with Thames Valley Police, with officers from the county council being seconded to the police, working from police premises.”
Neighbourhood police teams will now be carrying out reassurance patrols, issuing information about the operation with contact details if people need further information.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre was also involved in the operation.