A MAN has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking children for sexual exploitation.

The man from Chorley and another from Blackburn were held after swoops on homes in Chorley town centre by a specialist police team investigating the abuse of girls by groups of older men.

The 36-year-old from Chorley was held on suspicion of attempted child abduction and people trafficking for sexual exploitation.

At the same time the Blackburn man, 38, was arrested on suspicion of taking a child out of lawful control and engaging in penetrative sexual activity with a girl aged 13-15.

Police said the arrests formed part of a ‘long-running and sensitive’ operation.

But they declined to reveal specific details of the trafficking allegations.

The men were arrested at addresses on Pall Mall and Chapel Street and later questioned by detectives.

Nearby neighbours and businesses reported significant police activity in the town centre at around 2pm last Thursday.

After being questioned, both the men were released on police bail pending further inquiries and will return to Chorley police station on October 20.

One Pall Mall business owner, who did not wish to be named, said: “It was very unusual because there were several patrol cars and riot vans.

“It looked like they were conducting some kind of raid as there was such a large amount of police.”

The investigation is led by the Operation Cherish team.

The unit was created by Lancashire police’s Public Protection Unit in June 2009 to work with young and vulnerable people who are at risk of being sexually exploited, often whilst missing from home.

Since the team has helped more than 200 children from the Chorley, South Ribble and West Lancs areas.

It was created following Blackburn police's pioneering Operation Engage, launched in 2005, which led the first such crackdown.

Around this time the Lancashire Telegraph's Keep Them Safe campaign first highlighted the problem of a predatory network of men who were plying girls with alcohol and drugs and bribing them with gifts in return for