MORE than 100 young Wiganers were victims of sex crimes in the space of a year, shock figures reveal.
The NSPCC has revealed that Greater Manchester Police recorded 1,825 sexual offences against young people under 18 in 2013-14.
The figure is the second highest in the country, with only the Met Police in London recording more offences, while the national figures for 2013-14 show an increase of more than a third on the previous year.
The charity’s research has also revealed last year saw the highest number of children being referred to England’s social service.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show there were 108 victims of sexual offences, including rape, assault by penetration and inciting children to engage in sexual activity, aged under 18 in Wigan in 2013-14.
The charity described the surge in recorded offences as “disturbing” but GMP said the rising figures were largely due to better recording of sexual crimes against children and because victims were no longer afraid to speak to the police.
Det Supt Joanne Rawlinson said: “In the last 12 months we have seen an overall increase in reports of sexual offences, against both children and adults.
“We believe that this increase is largely due to improvements in the way that police record such crimes and a growing confidence within the public to report such offences.
“In September 2014 the Project Phoenix, ‘It’s Not Okay’ campaign was launched that was designed to provide guidance and support to victims, their parents and professionals about child sexual exploitation (CSE).
“The website outlines what CSE actually is, the potential indicators of abuse, what support is available, and how people can report such abuse. There are also links to real life accounts from victims of such offences across Greater Manchester.
“To date the website has had over 62,000 hits which is absolutely fantastic. The It’s Not Okay campaign is also on Twitter and Facebook with equally extensive audience reach.
“In addition to this, during the past 12 months Project Phoenix has delivered numerous training inputs and awareness raising initiatives on CSE across Greater Manchester with service industries such as hotels, taxi drivers, shopping centres, housing associations, as well as speaking to children and young people in schools, youth clubs and colleges.
“All of this activity has gone a long way to improve the public’s understanding of what CSE actually is, and has without doubt improved confidence in reporting such matters to the police.”
The NSPCC figures showed there were 31,238 allegations of sexual offences made to police forces throughout England and Wales in 2013-14.
The majority of victims were aged between 12 and 16 but more than a quarter were younger than 11, with 2,895 estimated to be five or under. More than three quarters of the reported abuse cases were against girls.
In addition, more than half a million childr.n were referred to social services in England in 2013-14 and the NSPCC helpline was inundated with 61,709 calls from adults concerned about a child’s welfare, a 21 per cent rise on the previous year.
The charity’s How Safe Are Our Children? report showed the number of children in the UK child protection system has gone up by 80 per cent since 2002.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “These figures are disturbing and clearly illustrate child sexual abuse is a continuing and widespread problem that needs urgent action.
“But we know this is still only a fraction of the true number of victims because some endure an agonising wait of many years before telling anyone - and others never reveal what has happened to them.
“It’s time to throw down the gauntlet to government which has to ensure all sexual abuse victims get specialist treatment to help them recover. By the end of this current Parliament there should be no children living in the shadow of abuse.”