North Yorkshire Police’s Non-recent Abuse Investigation Team (NRAIT) is based at Fulford Road police station in York and investigates cases of abuse that happened more than one year ago at the time of reporting.
It is focusing on institutions and organisations where suspects have been in a position of trust and is part of a department set up as part of a £3m strategy to improve protection for vulnerable people.
In 2014, the force apologised to victims of Scarborough ice cream magnate Peter Jaconelli after revealing that he would have faced a string of charges relating to abuse in the resort between 1958 and 1998 if he was still alive.
Jaconelli and his friend, disgraced Leeds-born DJ Jimmy Savile, were suspected of being involved in the abuse of 35 young victims as part of a paedophile ring operating in the resort but cheated justice as police missed opportunities to investigate.
The new unit, overseen by Detective Chief Inspector Allan Harder, comprises a detective sergeant, two detective constables and four police staff investigators, with a further two investigators to be recruited next year.
Det Chief Insp Harder said: “The new team will build on their collective expertise and knowledge to provide a bespoke service to victims of what can be the most harrowing and life-changing crimes.
“We know sexual abuse is under-reported but we are now seeing an increase in reports to the police, which is a good thing, as it means that people have more confidence in the criminal justice system and more people are accessing the support that is available to them through the agencies who work alongside the police.
“We urge anyone who is the victim of sexual abuse to report it, regardless of how long ago it happened.
“Your information could also trigger measures that are put in place to protect other victims, and help to inform a bigger picture of offending. Both of which can help to protect and potentially reduce the risk to future victims.
“We know it takes a lot of courage for people to call us or walk into a police station, but I would like to offer the reassurance that we have specially trained officers who will support you through the process as well as offering you the support provided by other agencies.”
Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, added: “The impact of sexual abuse can have repercussions for victims over many years.
“Our Supporting Victims team are dedicated to helping anyone who has suffered abuse in the past, and I would encourage people to contact them, whether or not they have reported to the police.
“I am glad to see that North Yorkshire Police continues to take this matter very seriously. I hope to see this new team working with our communities to increase reporting, especially where vulnerable people are most isolated.”