An independent criminal investigation designed to catch groomers who abused children in Rotherham under the noses of the authorities has started to gather evidence.
The National Crime Agency has begun the preliminary stage of Operation Stovewood, which will cover historic offences in the town between 1997 and 2013 - the same period covered by the devastating Jay report.
It is intended the first stage, involving intelligence gathering and reviewing past evidence about suspected abusers, will be completed by spring, when the full independent investigation will start.
The NCA was invited to take over cases by South Yorkshire Police chief constable David Crompton following the Jay report, which revealed serious failings by both the force and Rotherham Council in tackling child sexual exploitation and said there had been at least 1,400 victims over 16 years.
South Yorkshire Police are to foot the bill for the NCA investigation, which is expected to run into millions of pounds.
The terms of reference for the investigation have now been agreed by South Yorkshire Police and NCA director Trevor Pearce, who is to lead the inquiries.
Mr Pearce said: “After our initial work is complete, Operation Stovewood will be seeking information directly from the public and anyone else who can assist.”
It has been agreed that the NCA will not look at cases relating to abuse within families and will instead focus on catching those involved in grooming.
The first stage of the investigation will involve the oversight and review of existing force investigations into child sexual exploitation cases in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. It will also aim to identify whether any suspected offenders pose a current risk of harm to potential new victims and take action against them.
NCA bosses expect around 20 officers will be assigned to the investigation by the end of January, with some being seconded from other police forces.
The second stage of the operation will aim to bring offenders to justice and may also examine other criminal matters identified in the Jay report, such as the theft of key child abuse files from a council researcher in 2002.