DORSET Police received almost 100 reports of online child sex offences in 2019/20, with a 21 per cent increase on the previous year’s figure.
Data obtained by the NSPCC revealed 99 crimes were recorded across the county’s force in the 12 months up to March 31, up from 82 in the previous year.
Across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands, 10,331 reports were made in 2019/20 – the first time the figure had passed the 10,000 mark.
Chief Inspector Sarah Derbyshire, of the Public Protection Unit, said: “Dorset Police has continued to strengthen its response and resource capability to deal with sexual offences against children, with more officers in dedicated teams such as the Integrated Missing Person and Child Exploitation Team, Child Abuse Investigation Team and Paedophile Online Investigation Team.
“The officers and staff within these teams receive specific training to ensure an awareness and understanding of these often complex crimes, which affect some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
Nationally, the offences increased by 16 per cent from the previous year where data from police forces was made available. This includes crimes that had a cyber element such as grooming, sexual assault and rape. The south west region was up 45 per cent.
The NSPCC is calling on the Government to publish its final plans before the end of the year, and get an Online Harms Bill on the statute book by the end of 2021.
Andy Burrows, NSPCC head of child safety online policy, said: “These figures suggest that online abuse was already rising before lockdown, and the risks to children appear to have spiked significantly since.
“It is now almost 17 months since the Government’s original proposals for social media regulation were published and children continue to face preventable harm online.”
Chief Inspector Derbyshire added: “Dorset Police is a member of the Pan-Dorset Safeguarding Children Partnership, which works to identify children at significant risk of criminal exploitation and prevent them coming to harm, as well as pursuing the perpetrators of such abuse.
“Nationally, online child grooming offences have increased. This is as a result of more and more young people using social media, but also due to the police and other agencies becoming much better at identifying offenders.
“We would encourage everyone to help educate young people on internet use. Simple measures such as only allowing children to use devices online with a parent present and not allowing devices to be taken into the bathroom or bedroom would assist in preventing these types of offences.
“There are guides online that can assist parents and provide advice, such as regular checking of phones and devices and putting restrictions on applications that are downloaded to devices.
“If you have been a victim of a sexual offence, please come forward and report the matter so that we can carry out a full and thorough investigation.”
For more information visit:
- Dorset Police: https://www.dorset.police.uk/help-advice-crime-prevention/abuse-exploitation-neglect/
- Child Online Safety Advice: https://www.dorset.police.uk/help-advice-crime-prevention/crime-prevention-help-advice/cyber-crime/child-online-safety/
- NWG: http://www.nwgnetwork.org/
- Barnardos: http://www.barnardos.org.uk
- NSPCC: 0808 800 5000, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.nspcc.org.uk/childsexualexploitation
- National Helpline for male victims of CSE: 07808 863 662
- UK safer internet centre website: www.saferinternet.org.uk
- CEOP resources suitable for parents and children of different ages: www.thinkuknow.co.uk
- Concerned about your thoughts or behaviour? Visit: www.stopitnow.org.uk
- Child Online Safety: www.internetmatters.org