LONDON (AP) — Roughly 300 possible suspects have been identified in an investigation into large-scale child sex abuse in a northern English city, Britain's National Crime Agency said Wednesday
The wide-ranging inquiry follows a damning report last August documenting a huge number of child sex abuse cases in Rotherham, a small city of about 250,000 people. The report shocked Britain with the assertion that some 1,400 children had been sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013 as municipal authorities turned a blind eye to the problem.
The report found that hundreds of children were trafficked and raped during that period by Rotherham gangs, many of which were made up of members of Britain's Pakistani community. Underage girls who complained about being sexually abused were routinely ignored by authorities or seen as troublemakers, the report said.
Steve Baldwin, the crime agency senior investigating officer, said the police inquiry supports earlier claims about the number of children who were targeted and confirmed that two of the suspects have served on the city council.
"The abuse that has taken place in Rotherham is horrific," he said. "We have gathered a huge amount of information which details some very disturbing events."
Baldwin said investigators are trying to win the community's trust so more victims will come forward. He said it is likely that investigators will document "thousands" of offenses in an inquiry that is expected to take several years.