Tackling the sexual exploitation of children is “the number one priority”, police bosses have said.
Officers from West Yorkshire Police pledged their support on Wednesday as the country marked the first Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day.
Police joined local councils to visit schools and businesses to increase awareness of abuse offences as part of the campaign.
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, said £3.5m had been made available to the force to help deal with online crimes, human trafficking and abuse.
The figure includes £1.5m to form a dedicated team to investigate abuse and £440,000 for campaigns and to raise awareness.
He said: “Child Sexual Abuse is an abhorrent offence and we are pleased to support the awareness day in West Yorkshire
“The issue of tackling child sexual exploitation is the number one priority for West Yorkshire Police and this is the reason I have committed £1.5-million to establish a dedicated team within West Yorkshire Police to work with safeguarding detectives in investigating this crime.”
Specially-trained abuse officers manned information stands at venues across the district to raise awareness.
The force said it will treat every report of child grooming seriously and sympathetically.
The campaign was also backed by Kirklees Council’s Safeguarding Children Board, which set up a Know The Signs scheme in partnership with police.
The issue of tackling child sexual exploitation is the number one priority for West Yorkshire PoliceWest Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson
The scheme aims to help people spot signs of grooming by offering tips on the police website.
Det Chief Insp Sue Jenkinson said: “An extensive programme of work has been ongoing through our Know the Signs campaign and in schools to make both young people and parents aware of child sexual abuse and to encourage them to report it.”
It comes as a new type of assessment is being introduced at hospitals to help staff identify children at risk of, or experiencing, the abuse.
The assessment was designed by health workers at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
Emma Cox, named nurse for safeguarding children at the trust, said: “Children at risk of sexual exploitation are some of the most vulnerable in society.
“Many have experienced abandonment or have suffered from physical and mental abuse. They need help but don’t know where to look.
“This will help staff recognise those vital signs that children give but might not have the confidence to share.”
The campaign also sparked a social media frenzy after organisers urged Twitter users to post tweets using the hashtag #CSEDay15.
People were asked to tweet using the hashtag at noon on Wednesday.
Visit www.westyorkshire.police.uk/cse for more information.