CONCERNS are being raised over the number of reported rapes in the West Mercia area after they rose by 76 per cent in the last year.
West Mercia Police revealed it had recorded 697 rapes over the last 12 months, compared to 395 a year ago, while other sexual offences had risen from 897 to 1,295.
Police chiefs believed part of the increase was down to the ‘Saville effect’ as they felt victims had gained confidence in coming forward following the Jimmy Saville scandal.
But speaking at a West Mercia Police and Crime Panel meeting, Chief Constable David Shaw described the figures as ‘troubling’ and vowed to do all he could to curb the problem.
“The Saville effect has certainly had an impact,” he said. “What we are also seeing is people who previously would not have come forward for many years showing confidence in reporting it.
“We are finding more victims are coming forward, however we are also pretty sure there is a general and actual rise in some forms of sexual offences.
“I am not saying any of those are less troubling than any other category but I don’t think we should be complacent about where those victims come from.”
Coun Yvonne Smith said she was ‘very concerned’ about the rise, which was echoed by Barrie Sheldon, deputy police and crime commissioner for West Mercia.
But Mr Shaw insisted work was being done to reduce the figures, with ‘heavy investment’ going into training officers.
“It is without doubt the area which is attracting the most additional resource from us,” he said.
“One of the things we are finding is that we need to up our game in terms of what front-line officers and staff are aware of around a whole range of issues about vulnerability whether it is sexual offences, domestic abuse or modern slavery across a whole range of very important topics.
“It remains though our major concern in terms of what has been over a number of years a relatively static levels of crime across the board.
“This has been a fairly dramatic and troubling rise and you are quite right to highlight it.”