Number of sexual offences at 'highest level' in nearly two decades

PSNI
PSNI

The number of sex offences has hit its highest level in Northern Ireland for nearly two decades, police have disclosed.

More than 3,000 crimes were recorded last year and although the rate of increase has slowed, the total is the greatest since 1998.

The total of overall crimes has plummeted to numbers last seen in 1998, the year of the Good Friday Agreement and the signal for a major overhaul in policing, in line with global trends.

Most calls for help now involve public safety and welfare, a senior Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer said. Only 16% of public demands were linked to crime last year.

Deputy chief constable Drew Harris said: "These figures show a snapshot of crime types we are dealing with but it is also important to acknowledge that although the statistics show the number of traditional crimes recorded has fallen, demand on policing is increasing and becoming more complex as traditional crime has given way to those less visible, more complex crimes such as public protection offending and cyber crime."

The number of recorded sexual offences rose by 4% from 3,037 in 2015/16 to 3,158 offences in 2016/17, police said.

The force added: "While this rate of increase is less than that seen in the previous three years, the 2016/17 figure is the highest level recorded since 1998/99."

Mr Harris said overall 16% of policing demand was linked to crime, as around 80% of calls for service related to public safety and welfare including incidents involving vulnerability, missing people and child protection.

In 2016/17, there were 98,076 crimes recorded by the PSNI, a drop of 6.6%, 105,023 crimes, on the previous year and the lowest number recorded since the financial year 1998/99.

Crime has been falling steadily since the mid-1990s across the UK - as it has been in many other industrialised countries.