Rise in child exploitation and sex crime in Northern Ireland

Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said the rise in the overall figures could be down to more willingness to report crime
Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said the rise in the overall figures could be down to more willingness to report crime

There has been a rise in the number of serious sexual assaults, domestic violence and child exploitation cases in Northern Ireland according to the latest crime figures.

The number of recorded drug offences has also risen to its highest level since 1999, however, police suggest the overall rise in crime by 1.8 per cent could be due to people being more willing to report offending.

Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said: “There have been significant reductions in crime types such as; robbery, burglary and vehicle offences, each of which has fallen to their lowest levels recorded since the series began in 1998/99.”

A total of 105,023 crimes were recorded in the Province, which equates to 57 crimes per 1,000 population. The figures are contained in the PSNI’s annual crime statistics for 2015/16.

DCC Harris added: “An indication of our commitment to keeping people safe is the 9.7 per cent increase in drug seizures; this means an increase in recorded drug offences, which are at their highest level since 1998/99.”

Commenting on the latest figures, Policing Board vice-chair Debbie Watters said: “Whilst there is a small increase in the number of crimes recorded overall, the PSNI has failed to meet some of the targets set out in the last year’s Policing Plan.

“The board and the PSNI have focused on encouraging more people to report domestic abuse and, whilst the number of incidences in 2015/16 are the highest since the PSNI began to record these figures, they still fall short of the three per cent increase agreed and set out in last year’s Policing Plan. We want people to have the confidence to report this crime but it is also important that they know the crime will be resolved and measures such as body-worn video for specific officers will go some way to assist in that.”

Ms Watters added: “Behind all these statistics are victims and we will continue to work with the police to ensure that their needs are met and that the PSNI are delivering positive outcomes in their investigations of crimes committed.

“The board will question the chief constable on the end of year figures at the June board meeting.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the absence of “business specific” figures coupled with high levels of under-reporting “reveals a more concerning reality”.

Research recently published by the FSB shows that around a quarter of small business owners (24 per cent) do not report crimes, and nearly half (46 per cent) of these businesses say they believe reporting would not achieve a positive outcome.

Wilfred Mitchell of FSB said: “Often retail figures published are mistakenly considered as representative of the impact of business crime. However, retail crime is only one type of crime that impacts businesses in Northern Ireland; consequently overlooking rural crime, cyber crime and the wider scope of organised crime.

“Alongside the under-reporting of business crime, it is evident there is an inaccurate picture of the extent crime impacts on local businesses and the Northern Ireland economy overall. This risks further undermining of confidence in the justice system in Northern Ireland.”