Child sex abuse crimes falling following rise of more than a third in year
PUBLISHED: 13:24 29 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:24 29 January 2020
Police have seen a drop in recorded child sex abuse since figures showed a 34% increase in crimes across Suffolk.
Data released by the Office for National Statistics showed a child was sexually abused or exploited every five hours on average between March 2018 and 2019.
The total of child sex abuse crimes rose from 973 to 1,304 in 12 months, while exploitation crimes went up 18.4% from 347 to 411.
But the force's 12-month rolling data showed a fall from 1,241 to 1,203 against a three-year average.
Detective Superintendent David Henderson said the previous rise was reflected across the country, and largely down to better awareness and training within the police, and all sectors, to recognise and report incidents.
He said those factors applied to many other crime types, but that the likes of schools and health professionals also had the ability to report abuse exploitation concerns to Suffolk's multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH).
Operation Hydrant launched in 2014 to nationally coordinate non-recent inquiries into people of public prominence, or offences within institutional settings.
Meanwhile, the national Truth Project was created for survivors to share experiences as part of an independent inquiry.
Det Supt Henderson said: "That has seen an increase, which would account for the rise nationally.
"With every national scandal, there's a spike in reporting.
"Although child sexual exploitation is not a crime in statute, there's more awareness around controlling behaviour, and grooming, which is an offence a person can be charged with."
He said exploitation can also be flagged when dealing with county lines and street gang activity.
Only 22 child sex exploitation incidents were not subsequently recorded as a crime in 2018/19, compared to 37 the previous year.
That equates to 5% of incidents - among the lowest in the country, where, on average, more result in crimes not being recorded.
Det Supt Henderson said: "We want that number to be low. But the lower it gets, the higher recorded crimes are likely to be.
"There is far more awareness at national level, especially around historic crimes, and people have more faith their voices will be heard. In Suffolk, we have a number of organisations that can help, like Survivors in Transition.
"Referrals can also be made to our sexual assault referral centre for a pathway into other services."