New figures obtained by the NSPCC via a Freedom of Information request to police has found officers in Lincolnshire recorded 666 child sex offences last year – including 31 offences against children aged three and under.
The figures also show nine per cent of all offences were flagged as having an online element.
This is a decrease from the previous year when 738 offences were recorded.
However elsewhere the number of child sex offences recorded across the UK rose to a record 64,667 last year (2016/17) an increase of 15 per cent – with one offence recorded on average every eight minutes.
The total number of sex offences committed against children is unknown, as more children may not have come forward out of fear or embarrassment.
The NSPCC believes the dramatic increase could be down to a number of factors: police forces improving recording methods, survivors feeling more confident in disclosing abuse following high-profile cases, and online groomers becoming a significant problem with predators able to reach hundreds of children.
The NSPCC is calling for government to direct more resources to ensure high-quality training and support is available to frontline police officers to help raise awareness of safeguarding procedures and tackle child sex offences, especially online.
But it is also vital that children feel able to come forward to disclose abuse. The NSPCC’s Speak Out. Stay Safe (SOSS) programme visits primary schools across the UK to help children learn the signs of abuse in an age appropriate way, and what to do if they have been victims of such abuse. In 2016/17, SOSS staff and volunteers visited 140 Lincolnshire schools and spoke to 28,066 children.
NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said: “This dramatic rise is extremely concerning and shows just how extensive child sexual abuse is.
“These new figures suggest the police are making real progress in how they investigate sex offences against children. To help them tackle the issue going forward, we must ensure the police are equipped to work with other agencies and provide on-going support and training to officers on the front line.”
Lincolnshire Police is supporting a Government campaign launched to tackle child abuse by raising awareness of abuse and how to spot it.
It encourages members of the public to report any concerns of abuse or neglect to their local council, NSPCC or the police. The campaign also seeks to remind professionals, including teachers and healthcare staff of safeguarding responsibilities.