Lancashire police vows to crack down on sexual offences with 40 extra officers as reports soar to pre-pandemic levels

Police say ‘tackling violence remains their top priority’ and have vowed to improve investigations into sexual offences after reports of such crimes shot up by more than 30 per cent in Blackpool last year.

By Wes Holmes
Friday, 6th May 2022, 3:45 pm

Lancashire police recorded 883 sexual offences in Blackpool in 2021 – an increase of 36 per cent compared to the previous year – returning the crime rate to pre-Covid-19 pandemic levels.

Now the force, along with Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden, the Lancashire Violence Reduction Network and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, have promised to improve services for victims in the resort.

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Police say they are committed to reducing the rate of sex offences

A Lancashire police spokesman said: “We are committed to preventing and detecting all violent and sexual offences, as well as providing specialist support to victims of these crimes.

“We want victims to feel confident they will be treated with compassion and we will do everything possible to trace those responsible and take action against them.

“While we recognise and understand concern around these figures, we would like to reassure the community that we are working together as a partnership to continually strive to improve the waywe work with victims to bring the offender to justice.

“In turn, we believe there is an increase in confidence from victims that collectively we will be able to help them, and more people are willing to come forward, report what has happened and access pathways of specialist support.

“Protecting vulnerable people and providing the best quality of service to all victims of crime, including those of a sexual nature, is at the forefront of our approach.

“The constabulary has introduced a number of measures over the past few years to ensure that victims are treated professionally, with sensitivity and with regard for their future safety and well-being. Our contact management staff are trained in how best to liaise with the victim or whoever

reports the crime and make sure they get the right information.

"The number of officers who are trained in sexual offences investigation has also increased and are a key component of how we have continued to professionalise our approach to rape investigations all of which will be led by a detective inspector with a dedicated team of investigators."

A team of 40 specialist officers are set to join Lancashire Police this year to establish a new dedicated Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Team, under Mr Snowden’s Police and Crime Plan.

He said: “I want to improve outcomes for victims and help to drive up conviction rates here in Lancashire and the dedicated new team of officers will work towards this. Victims deserve the best possible service from their police force and investment in this area will ensure that we tackle offenders and that victims of this type of crime receive the justice they deserve.”

Support for victims of sexual violence is available through Lancashire Victim Services.

At Blackpool Victoria Hospital, a team of health independent sexual violence advisers (ISVAs) work to identify the signs of sexual abuse and to respond appropriately.

A spokesman said: “This started as a pilot scheme at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, with the ISVA role now provided in every Trust across the county. National funding for this scheme has been secured from the Police and Crime Commissioner for the next five years, facilitating victims to be reached wherever they may attend.

"Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is committed to continue working with partners to ensure the best outcomes for victims and survivors, with the work also informed by victims who have used the service.”

Victims of rape and serious sexual offences can also access support from the SAFE centre, based at Royal Preston Hospital, which provides counselling and preventative medication as well as being able to obtain forensic evidence for the police.

They added: “Tackling violence remains our top operational priority, including crimes that disproportionately affect women and girls, such as domestic abuse and sexual violence. We will not stop in our mission to tackle violence perpetrated by men against women and girls.”

If you have been a victim of crime, whether recently or in the past, call Lancashire Victim Services free on 0300 323 0085.

You can also self-refer to the SAFE centre on 01772 523 344.

Police ask victims of sexual offences to call 101 or report online.