Protecting the public is a top priority, police chiefs have warned today, as The Yorkshire Post reveals a sharp rise in the number of sex offenders living in the region.
Police forces across Yorkshire have seen an average increase of 50 per cent in the number of registered sex offenders (RSOs) over the last five years.
About 5,000 sex offenders are recorded as living in Yorkshire, according to figures obtained under Freedom of Information laws.
And the data reveals that about 70 per cent of all RSOs in the county have been convicted of an offence against a child.
More than 200 sex offenders in Yorkshire have also breached their order requirements since 2015, and at least a dozen are currently wanted and have been missing for more than a year.
The sex offender register, established by the Sex Offenders Act 1997, requires convicted sex offenders to register with the police upon their release to ensure they are monitored.
While those sentenced to more than 30 months after committing a sexual offence must sign the register for life, police say advances in technology and more
successful prosecutions have contributed to the alarming rise.
In South Yorkshire, the force has seen a rise of more than 40 per cent over the last five years, from 983 sex offenders in 2012 to 1,386 this year.
Detective Inspector Karen Whitehouse, from the force, said: “South Yorkshire Police has seen increases in the number of people having the confidence to come forward and report being a victim of sexual abuse.
“There have also been significant advances in technology and investment in resources which have helped officers investigate this type of crime.
“This is turn has led to a rise in the number of prosecutions and convictions against sexual offenders.”
In West Yorkshire, there are now 2,653 RSOs living in the district, more than 60 per cent of whom have been convicted of an offence against a child.
Some 916 of those are based in Leeds – which is more than the total number of sex offenders living in North Yorkshire’s policing district.
Ten are currently missing, and three are known to have fled the country, the figures revealed.
The force also recorded nearly 100 breaches of the offenders’ order requirements over the last two years.
Superintendent Darren Minton, head of safeguarding at the force, said: “In many cases when offenders are subject to statutory registration as a sex offender, they remain so for many years and sometimes for life. As a result the number of people on the register will tend to increase year on year.
"It must also be stressed that protecting the public from sexual and violent offenders is at the heart of everything we do, and combating sexual offending remains a force priority.”
In North Yorkshire, the police force has seen a rise of more than 50 per cent in the number of sex offenders since 2012. There are now 786 RSOs living in North Yorkshire, two of whom have been missing for more than one year.
Humberside Police also has at least 750 sex offenders living in the force’s policing district, the figures revealed.
Charity calls for specialist online training
As the majority of offenders committed an offence against a child, the NSPCC charity has warned that police forces need specialist training to investigate online child sexual abuse that could be being missed.
An NSPCC spokesperson said: ““The total number of sex offences committed is unknown, as more children may not have come forward because they are frightened, embarrassed, or do not realise that they have been abused.
“To cope with the numbers of children coming forward the NSPCC is calling for specialist training for police investigating online child abuse, effective rehabilitation for child sex offenders, and investment in early intervention services.”
The number of child sex offences recorded by police in Yorkshire rose to 5,387 last year – an average of nearly 15 a day – the NSPCC said.
Police recorded crimes against children that included rape, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation in the region.
Across the UK, the total of child sex offences rose to a record 55,507 in 2015/16, an average of 152 a day.