STEVE Baker MP has urged the community to “stand together” after police arrested a group of men on suspicion of child exploitation.
The Wycombe MP, who was one of the community leaders invited by police chiefs to a special briefing this morning, called the alleged offences “vile” and pleaded for residents to unite behind the police.
He wrote on his website this afternoon: “The alleged offences are utterly vile and all decent people will join in condemning them.
“I am grateful to Superintendent Gilbert Houalla and the team at Wycombe police station for holding a briefing this morning with a diverse group of prominent citizens.
“Leaders from across the town were united in insisting that our young and vulnerable children must be defended from abuse.
“We agreed to stand together.”
Eight men aged between 20 and 28 were arrested at about 5am from ten locations around the Wycombe area as part of Operation Ribbon.
Police said they were arrested on suspicion of committing various sexual offences against a girl between 2007 and 2012.
The operation was launched after the girl, who was 12 when the abuse started, came forward in December last year. She agreed to make a statement in August meaning officers could step up their investigation.
Supt Houalla echoed the thoughts of Mr Baker and has asked the community to rally behind the families of those arrested.
He said: “It’s unfortunate, it shouldn’t have happened, it has happened so let’s deal with it and get things back to normality.
“Those individuals who were arrested, their families will need support and the community will need reassurance.
“We will stand firm and I would like the community to do so as well.”
Police “strongly suspect” there are other victims. Detective Chief Inspector Vince Grey, leading the investigation, said: "In terms of child exploitation, the general premise is there will be a number of victims.
"With this particular victim, she's mainly discussed actions involving herself, not going into any great details in terms of other persons, but we believe in terms of what she told us that there will be other victims."
The force is appealing for other potential victims to come forward and Mr Grey praised the girl for having the courage to speak to police.
He said: "She's been extremely brave and courageous in coming forward in the first place.
"She's come forward and she's indicated what offending has happened to her, who's been involved in that, and over what time period."
Call police via the 101 enquiry line or the 01296 396 396 investigation hotline.
Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or ChildLine on 0800 11 11 with any information about this investigation or if you are worried a child may be a victim of child exploitation.