WYCOMBE’S top policeman has urged the community to stand solid once again after further arrests in a huge child exploitation investigation.
Superintendant Gilbert Houalla praised residents for the way they reacted to part one of Operation Ribbon in November and wants a similar response again after four men were arrested in Wycombe this morning.
The area commander was addressing community leaders - including councillors, agencies and advocates - after the 5am raids in High Wycombe.
He said: “This is not a new offence, not new victims; this is a continuation of the previous investigation. It’s important to stress that as it would give the wrong impression of Wycombe.
“It’s important that we deal with this as one community.
“Last time, we all stood solid and did not allow people on the right wing, or any other group, to take advantage and that is to our strength and I suggest we do it again.
“It’s easy to stand up and say something [when there’s a major incident], what sustains us is that constant message throughout the year.”
Supt Houalla is pleading for the community’s help in supporting the families of the arrested men and believes an understanding atmosphere around the town will also help other potential victims come forward.
He said: “My first priority is to protect the victim and the public and, within the public, I mean the family of the people we’ve arrested.
“The victims of crime are well looked after, the suspected offenders are looked after within the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, but there’s a gap where the families of suspected offenders are not.
“Now some of you may know these families and if you feel they are struggling, let me know as I’m happy to support them – maybe the support won’t come directly from the police but we have other agencies.
“When people see that the police are taking allegations seriously, are dealing with victims and the community sensitively, and see that people are not left on their own, it will encourage victims to come forward.
“There are other people we are encouraging to come forward but it’s so hard with offences like this, so it’s not surprising people are reluctant.”
In total, seven men have been charged and six others have been arrested as part of the investigation into child sexual exploitation in High Wycombe.
If you are worried about somebody who you think may be a victim of child exploitation, call ChildLine on 0800 11 11 or visit www.childline.org.uk.
People can also call Buckinghamshire County Council’s First Response Team on 0845 4600 001 with any concerns around child sexual exploitation.
If you have any information about either this investigation or child exploitation, contact police on the 101 enquiry line.
Alternatively, if you do not wish to speak to police, call the Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.