POLICE in Newent are relaunching an operation to prevent vulnerable under-aged girls being groomed for sex, drink and drugs at the town’s Lakeside by older teenage boys.
Last year, schoolgirls as young as 14 were reported as going missing from children’s homes in the area for up to two days at a time on a regular basis.
Operation Lakeside was then initiated to combat child exploitation around the lake which takes on a seedier and more unsavoury atmosphere after dark.
In most cases the missing girls were found within 48 hours but the girls were reluctant to tell the authorities who they had been with and where they had been.
Inspector Steve Chester said last year that they had received many complaints about the general disorder around the lake but more worryingly he added: "We seem to be getting young girls going missing on a regular basis.”
He added that he suspects there was an ’element of grooming’ taking place and that the young girls were attracted by the late night culture of drinking and drug taking by older teenagers at the lake.
But now Acting Inspector Lee Solly said: “Operation Lakeside is being relaunched following recent concerns by local residents around child sexual exploitation and anti-social behaviour.”
The inspector said that only one children’s home remains open in the Newent area and that any child exploitation taking place around the lakeside this summer would affect young girls local the area.