More than four child sex offences a day are recorded by Sussex Police, with the total for 2016-17 up 13 per cent on the previous year to 1,694.
The figures were published by the NSPCC today (Tuesday 20 February) as the children’s charity called for more training and support for officers.
Sussex Police said that it was unable to provide a breakdown of the figures for Brighton and Hove.
But in the first eight months of the current year, starting in April, 642 sex offences were recorded in Brighton and Hove, up from 507 a year earlier.
The tally covers adult victims as well as children and averages more than two a day locally.
The NSPCC said: “The total number of sex offences committed against children is unknown, as more children may not have come forward out of fear or embarrassment or may not even realise they have been abused.
“Recorded child sex offences across the UK are at all-time high. New figures obtained via a ‘freedom of information’ request to police found officers recorded crimes including rape, sexual assault and grooming.
“In 2016-17, 46 offences recorded by Sussex Police were flagged as having an online element.
“Across the UK, figures were up by 15 per cent to 64,667, with an offence recorded on average every eight minutes.
“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
- 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 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.”
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “This dramatic rise is extremely concerning and shows just how extensive child sexual abuse is.
“These abhorrent crimes can shatter a child’s life, leaving them to feel humiliated, depressed, or even suicidal.
“That is why it is crucial every single child who has endured abuse and needs support must get timely, thorough help so they can learn to rebuild their lives.
“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 ongoing support and training to officers on the front line.”
Sussex Police said: “All police forces have recorded an increase in sex offences, against adults as well as children, over the past five years.
“However, the pace of reporting is increasing and we expect that this trend will be found in other forces too.
“Some offences are non-recent but many are current.
“We welcome this continued increase in reporting which is giving us a better indication of the underlying issues and which we also believe reflects at least in part an increasing confidence in victims about coming forward, knowing that reports are taken seriously and that we will work with partners to try to achieve justice wherever possible.”
The force said that it had increased staffing in its Paedophile On-Line Investigation Team (POLIT), including the appointment of two victim identification officers.
Sussex Police added: “The precept increase (on council tax bills) has also enabled extra investment in our digital forensic examination unit to help ensure that we can more quickly analyse and retrieve digital information to speed investigations and help protect vulnerable people from sexual and domestic abuse.
“The PCC (police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne) has also funded the post of a child sexual abuse (CSE) analyst, whose intelligence-led role is helping to identify the immediate risks and emerging challenges around.”
Sussex Police said that this had been cited as best practice by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
And it said: “Officers at all levels also receive training in the investigation of online abuse.”
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