The number of child sex abuse cases reported to police on the Fylde coast has soared in the last year, it can today be revealed.
New figures show a surge in cases being referred to police on the Fylde coast were behind the increased workload for officers last year – as other areas saw the number of reports fall.
Detectives say increased awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE) is behind the rise with high profile cases, including Jimmy Savile, and police campaigns bringing the issue to national attention.
Across Lancashire Police’s western division, which covers the Fylde coast as well as Lancaster and Morecambe, 503 cases were reported to officers in 2014 compared to 400 the year before – a 26 per cent increase.
There were more referrals in East Lancashire – 558 cases were dealt with last year – but that figure was down five per cent compared to 2013.
They use their status to exploit vulnerable victims
Det Supt Sue Cawley, head of the force’s Public Protection Unit, said: “CSE can affect young people from all social and ethnic backgrounds and takes place in local communities all over the country.
“In the same way, offenders come from many different backgrounds but they all have one thing in common – they are abusing young people and are using their status or position to exploit vulnerable victims.”
She said a key part of the work in Blackpool, focuses on the resorts licenced premises and taxi companies to help identify vulnerable children.
She added: “Referrals don’t necessarily mean there’s a prosecution. It means people are concerned enough to report something as CSE.
“We are pleased the numbers are as high as they are because it means people have the confidence to come forward.
“All the training we have done with school, doctors, parents and young people means people recognise CSE.”
Across Lancashire, officers dealt with 1,290 CSE referrals in 2014. In that time 192 child sex offenders were prosecuted.
Lancashire Police is today taking part in a national day of awareness and will be speaking to youngsters and teachers to help them spot the warning signs of CSE.
Officers will also be handing out leaflets raising awareness of the problem at business including takeaways and hotels across the county.
Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said tackling CSE remains a “priority”.
He added: “The fact our officers continue to get so many referrals across the county is a positive sign that our campaign of raising awareness is working.
“However, it is also a sign the perpetrators are still not getting the message and still think they can groom and exploit children for their own needs.”