Vulnerable women and teenagers with addiction problems targeted for sex

Women and teenagers with addiction problems and learning difficulties are among those police believe have been targeted by men for sex

Vulnerable women and teenagers with addiction problems targeted for sex
Vulnerable women and teenagers with addiction problems targeted for sex

Women and teenagers with addiction problems and learning difficulties are among those police believe have been targeted by men for sex.

The revelation by Northumbria Police comes as the number of females linked to allegations of sex exploitation in Newcastle rises to 80.

Officers involved in the investigation called Operation Sanctuary have now arrested 30 people on suspicion of conspiracy to rape following raids over the past two weeks.

Three men were brought in for questioning after a woman in her twenties walked into a city police station in the early hours of Tuesday morning alleging she had been raped.

Deputy Chief Constable Steve Ashman said police now had the names of 80 women, who are either alleged victims or witnesses to abuse, and they will attempt to contact them with the help of voluntary organisations.

He said all the women and girls involved are linked by their extreme “vulnerability” and may have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs and then subjected to sexual assault or rape.

He added that the alleged victims may have frequented business premises in the city which brought them into contact with men and taxis used to transport them to different addresses.

He said: “The women and girls we’ve identified so far are all vulnerable in some way, this is the common factor. It could be they have a chaotic lifestyle, a drug or alcohol addiction or are, or have been, in care.

“Members of the public may recognise this description as a person they know - someone vulnerable who is potentially involved or at risk of being taken advantage of. These are crimes that are happening behind closed doors, in local areas, and it is likely that people living nearby recognise the behaviour we’re describing.

“It could be groups of men going into properties with teenage girls or young women. They may see women under the influence of drink or drugs who may appear distressed.

“The one thread through this is vulnerability. Vulnerability by an addiction to alcohol, or substance misuse, in some cases the women will have learning difficulties.”

Those involved are teenagers and women of various ages with some younger females in the care of a local authority or having recently left care.

Explaining to the public for the first time the level of organisation by alleged perpetrators, DCC Ashman said that while those arrested were not part of an “organised hierarchy”, some smaller groups of up to three men would be known to each other.

The arrests were made following police raids on January 27 in Newcastle’s West End, Walker, Gateshead and South Tyneside.

In the first operation 27 people were quizzed by police, including two women. Three further arrests were made on February 4. All of them are currently on bail pending further enquiries.

They are from a range of backgrounds and communities.

This weekend police are appealing to the city’s taxi drivers, business, restaurant and take-away owners and hotel and bed and breakfast managers to report anything suspicious. They will also be handing out information leaflets to encourage people to come forward if they have information.

DCC Ashman said: “We need people to report this to us - we can’t do this alone. We all have a collective responsibility to make our communities a no go area for this type of behaviour. If it doesn’t look right, if it just feels wrong, then ring us.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 referencing Operation Sanctuary.

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