Mick Gradwell, a former detective superintendent, said the targeting of underage and vulnerable girls had been going on for decades.
He added: ‘You have girls being abused and raped and yet the most senior officers are refusing to comment on it. On what other subject would you get that?
Sex gangs: Mohammed Liaqat and Abid Saddique are pictured cruising the streets for young girls. Police fear speaking about the gangs in caser they appear racist
Mr Gradwell spoke out following a trial in Derby which resulted in Abid Saddique, 27, and Mohammed Liaqat, 28, being jailed for a total of 19 years last week after targeting underage girls.
His warning also follows the arrests of a gang of Asian men over claims they plied 14 white girls with drink and drugs before turning them into sex slaves in Rochdale, near Manchester.
In the aftermath of these cases, former home secretary Jack Straw prompted controversy when he described some of the victims as ‘easy meat’ for gangs – often made up of Pakistani men – who trawl the streets looking for sex.
The vulnerable girls in Rochdale – some as young as 13 – say they were forced to work the streets as prostitutes and hand over money to the gang.
The nine men, eight of them Asian, were questioned by detectives after officers swooped on a number of addresses.
The arrests took place shortly before Christmas and were the result of a major inquiry into the sexual exploitation of teenage girls by men since 2008.
Jailed: Saddique, left, and Liaqat, were convicted of a string of offences against young girls
Mr Gradwell added: ‘When I joined in 1979 one of my first tasks was to police around a Blackburn nightclub where one of the issues was Asian men cruising around in BMWs and Mercs trying to pick up young drunken girls.
‘The main pressure police have is being called institutionally racist if they highlight a crime trend like this.
‘There’s a fantastic reluctance to be absolutely straight because some people may take such offence.’
The comments come just days after a nationwide investigation was launched following a string of disturbing cases.
The two sexual predators convicted in Derby, Saddique and Liaqat – both British-born fathers of Pakistani origin – cruised the streets in either a Range Rover or a BMW looking for vulnerable young girls.
The victims were ‘chatted up’ at the roadside and invited to go for drives in the car where they were plied with vodka or cocaine before being taken to hotel rooms, parks or houses to be sexually abused.