DOZENS of children in Bolton are currently at risk of sexual exploitation — and figures of young people falling prey to adults has risen year-on-year.

Statistics released by Bolton Council show that between April and June this year, 32 children were identified of being at risk of being sexually exploited.

Figures show that in 2011, 82 children were at risk of sexual exploitation and 87 last year.

In 2004, the number of children aged up to 18 years old at risk was 13 but at the beginning of 2007 that figure was 26.

The sexual exploitation of children has had a high profile with the conviction of gangs of men grooming girls for sex.

Common grooming scenarios include girls being stopped by older males who are in cars often high spec, leased, playing loud music attractive to young people.

The children or young people are often supplied with cigarettes, alcohol, drugs — this is know as on street grooming.

But over time, although often very quickly, girls are coerced into sexual acts or raped.

Grooming can also occur online.

Bolton has a number of initiatives to protect and help children, including running an on-street pilot and the approach of health workers.

A case highlighted as “good practice” included a 13-year-old girl attending for a routine health appointment told she had been raped after being sensitively questioned by a nurse.

The police were informed and the suspect was wanted for rape of another child and had also been named by other young people as an exploiter.

As a result two men were convicted for the rape and sexual assault of two girls.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: “Bolton Council and its partners are totally focused on safeguarding vulnerable young people, sharing intelligence and information and helping the public keep up-to-date with information and providing targeted sexual exploitation training and education for children and families.”

He added that statistics reported after 2011 were not comparable with previous years as Bolton has changed the way it processes child sexual exploitation statistics.

The spokesman said: “The number of active open cases dealt with by the team has remained relatively static since the department was established.

“Reported incidents and cases may be increasing as new tools are used for early identification, intervention and prevention so as to protect those at risk.

“With increased education and training local communities seem to be increasingly aware of the signs of child sexual exploitation and are willing to report incidents at an earlier stage. We are also focused on tracking vulnerable young people to minimise the risks they may face in the future and as such cases can be kept open for longer periods than in the past.”