FIFTEEN people have been arrested after police launched a probe into allegations of sexual abuse of teenage girls and young adults in the North East.
Raids took place in Newcastle yesterday as Northumbria Police officers reacted to information they had received about a series of sexual assaults against a number of victims.
As part of Operation Sanctuary, 13 addresses were searched and 14 people arrested – 13 men and two women – on suspicion of conspiracy to rape.
The police said some of the victims were in care when the alleged offending took place and that their priority now was to protect them while forensic teams secure important evidence.
The alleged offenders are said to be from “a range of communities” and police have urged against speculating about their background.
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Gary Calvert said: “This is a sensitive investigation which is at a very early stage and moving rapidly.
“I understand that these types of allegations can cause the public concern and I want to reassure the community that police take crimes of this nature extremely seriously and will thoroughly investigate them.
“Our overarching priority is to protect any victims or potential victims and to bring any offenders to justice.
“I must emphasise that the suspects do not come from one community, but a range of communities, and it would be very wrong to speculate until we have the full facts which may take some time.
“The victims include teenage girls as well as young adults.
“We are working closely with our partners, in particular the local authorities, and are grateful for their co-operation.
“I would stress there is nothing to suggest there is any risk to the general public as we believe the victims and suspects were known to each other.”
He said officers known to their communities would be on patrol and asked anyone with information to come forward.