FOUR people in Gloucester have been arrested as part of an investigation into alleged child sexual exploitation in the city.
A 22-year-old Gloucester man was arrested on suspicion of child trafficking, sexual assault of a child and sexual grooming of a child and a 45-year-old woman from Gloucester arrested on suspicion of child trafficking at the first address.
A 19-year-old man from the city was arrested on suspicion of child trafficking and rape of a child at the second address.
A fourth person, a 20-year-old woman, was arrested this afternoon on suspicion of child trafficking.
They will remain in police custody while inquiries continue.
The offences are related to trafficking within and around the county and there are believed to be nine potential victims, aged between 14 and 17.
Sergeant Nigel Hatten, of the Child Sexual Exploitation Unit, said: "We take any allegation of the sexual exploitation of children very seriously and we know this news will concern people.
“The Child Sexual Exploitation team has worked extremely hard together with partner agencies including the National Working Group Network– tackling sexual exploitation, to proactively pursue the concerns resulting in the arrests today.
"Child sexual exploitation has been in the headlines a lot recently and people will wonder whether there is a serious issue in this county.
"Sadly no area is immune but what I can say is that while one case is too many, it is not known to be widespread in Gloucestershire at this time.
"I can reassure people specially trained officers from our child sexual exploitation team investigate each and every case thoroughly and with the help of our partner agencies support victims through the process.
"The victims of these offences are being updated and supported by specialist officers and our partner agencies.
"We hope this case will make people more aware of the issue and would urge anyone with information about these type of offences to come forward and have confidence that they will be listened to."
Mike Hand, specialist team member of the National Working Group - Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation, said: “We have been pleased to assist the Gloucestershire team to investigate this case and work alongside them to continually improve responses to children and young people sexually exploited, as always our support to ensure young people receive the best support possible is our main focus.
“We look forward to continuing our work with partners in Gloucestershire.”