More than 30 people have been arrested as part of a major investigation into the sexual exploitation of children and young people in Northern Ireland.
A number have already appeared in court charged with sexual exploitation and other offences.
The police have identified a group of 22 young people - aged between 13 and 18 - that may have been abused.
The investigation follows a review of cases of young people missing from the care system over the past 18 months. A team of 15 detectives and social workers is working on the investigation.
Almost two years ago, a survey by the charity, Barnardos, claimed two thirds of young girls in care homes here were at risk of sexual exploitation. The charity provided the police with the names of potential victims. That survey was funded by the Department of Health.
The vast majority of the victims were young girls. It is understood a small number of young boys were also involved. Police fear the number of victims will increase.
At this stage, police have not uncovered any evidence to suggest this is the work of a large-scale sex ring or sex rings.
Police talk of loose associations of people and friends who groom these young people by buying them gifts, taking them out and providing them with drink and drugs and then having sex with them - in some cases, then passing them around to other people.
|Prof Kathleen Marshall|
Most of the suspected offenders are in their early 20s but the eldest under suspicion is 60.
The issue was discussed at Stormont during a joint meeting of the assembly's health and justice committees out of which came an inquiry which will look at the extent of child sex abuse across Northern Ireland.
Health Minister Edwin Poots announced the appointment of Prof Kathleen Marshall on Tuesday. Marshall, a former Scottish commissioner for children and young people, is to chair the inquiry.