Children to be warned of online grooming dangers after rise in reported sex crimes
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Children are to be warned of the dangers of online grooming after a huge rise in the reported number of sex crimes against young people recorded by Suffolk police.
The figures, obtained by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), show 1,190 reported offences, including rape, were recorded by Suffolk Constabulary between April 2018 and March 2019, up from 980 the previous year.
The latest figures show an increase of 168% on the 444 reported offences recorded in 2014/15.
The rise sees Suffolk ranked as having the highest percentage change in the east of England, with Essex also seeing a rise of 64% from 1,293 to 2,122 in the last four years.
Detective Superintendent Dave Henson, of Suffolk Police, said: "I am absolutely not surprised the figures are going up.
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"There are more people coming forward and reporting sexual assaults.
"But you have to bear in mind that historic cases that are only being reported now will still be included.
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"We have been praised for recording our crime data ethically and legitimately whereas other forces are recording historic crimes as intelligence.
"This is linked to the rise and I say that without a doubt in my mind."
According to the figures, 335 of the reported offences recorded in the last year were against children aged 10 and under.
Campaigners have called for more online support, with national trends showing an increase in the number of reported crimes with an online element, increasing by 18% in the last year from 7,362 to 8,656.
In Suffolk, police received 76 reports of sexual communication with a child in the last year.
Katy Cole, NSPCC schools coordinator for Suffolk, said: "I was quite shocked myself seeing these figures.
"Suffolk is following a trend nationally where more children are feeling more comfortable to report cases of sexual abuse.
"Online grooming is becoming an increasing problem and more and more children are getting electronic devices from a younger age. As a result, we aim to visit all primary schools in the county to speak to children about staying safe online."
The charity's chief, Peter Wanless, said the country is in a "nationwide crisis" and is calling for a "radical rethink" in the way the country helps young people.
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, said, "The Constabulary takes all allegations of sexual assault very seriously and many of these are very complex particularly when young children are involved.
"I have set out in my Police and Crime Plan that victims of crime should be central to all that we do, and in line with that plan, I monitor the Constabulary's performance in this area on a regular basis.
"Last year we allocated over £1.1m which includes over £300K to Norfolk and Suffolk Victim Care and counselling for young victims of sexual abuse through Fresh Start - new beginnings and Survivors in Transition which supports adult victims of childhood abuse."
Childline are available 24/7 on 0800 1111.