THE number of reported sex crimes in Glasgow has risen by almost a third in the past six years, the Evening Times can reveal.
Scotland’s biggest city saw 1109 indecent and sexual assaults reported to police last year – an increase of 31.5% since 2006/07 when 843 were recorded.
Official police figures obtained as part of our Crime on Your Street series show incidents of sexual violence – not
including prostitution offences – rose by nearly 5% in the past year. The rise has sparked concern among campaigners who say the numbers indicate the possibility that sex
offending is on the up.
So far this year, from April 1 to August 26, there have been 109 reports of rapes in the Greater Glasgow Area. Last year this figure was 105.
The figures buck the trend being seen across the board, as other crime has fallen and is continuing to do so.
But what appears to be a worrying direction has been played down by police.
They say the hike is down to stronger public confidence in the reporting of these crimes, which include rape, attempted rape, and indecent assaults.
Historic sex abuse cases coming to light are also being linked to the higher numbers.
High profile investigations were first triggered by the Jimmy Savile inquiry and have gone on to implicate several celebrities.
It is believed the success of these cases, such as that against former presenter Stuart Hall, who was imprisoned earlier this year for a series of sex assaults on girls as young as nine, has helped victims speak out.
Detective Inspector Diane Caldwell, who forms part of Glasgow’s divisional rape investigation unit, believes there has been a “significant” rise in historic cases of sex crime.
She said: “Anecdotally and from what we see, yes, there has been a significant rise in historical cases. We deal with a lot of reports which are of crimes which have happened years ago.
“There are a whole host of reasons as to why people didn’t report the crime at the time.
“People now feel that they have the confidence in the police to investigate the matter thoroughly and professionally.”
Ms Caldwell put the overall increase down to “increased confidence that the public has in the police to investigate that type of crime”.
Detective Superintendent Peter McPike, of Greater Glasgow Division, added: “There is a significant level of under reporting of these crimes.
“The approach by Police Scotland, the training and investment in our staff, means there is an increased confidence.”
The figures show that sexual offences remain consistently high in the City Centre, including in parts of Argyle Street, Sauchiehall Street and Garnethill.
In other areas of the city, such as at Woodlands in the West End and Govan Cross there has been a sharp rise.
At Govan Cross there were 21 offences recorded last year compared to six in 2011/12, an increase of 250%. Woodlands saw a 166.6% hike, after 16 were recorded in 2012/13 compared to six the year before.
However, the numbers can often be linked to a spate of crimes by one offender which can misrepresent the data.
Ms Caldwell said: “From our outlook, having a view of all the crimes and the full circumstances, there is nothing there jumping out at us which is a cause for concern.”
The rise of social media and the influence it could have on sex crime has meant police have had to adapt their practices.
Mr McPike said: “The vast majority of people who use internet sites are very decent people but social media brings up another avenue for people who seek to take advantage of vulnerable people.
“It’s a new way for some people to do that. I think it’s an important public message: don’t forget your own personal safety even when you’re online.”
Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS) said many of their service users still refrained from reporting sexual offences to the police, indicating that the figures could be far higher.
Information and resource worker Eileen Maitland said: “The majority of people who get in touch with Rape Crisis are not reporting to the police.
“We don’t know why the rise is but it is possible that it’s an increase in sexual offending and that’s something that has to be taken seriously.”
There are indications that perpetrators of sexual crime could be pursued in the same way as domestic abusers.
Police use a proactive approach to catch people who commit domestic violence by working with organisations such as
ASSIST and Women’s Aid to gather intelligence on criminals.
Information sharing where the victim remains anonymous to police if they do not want to report the crime is one way of channelling this approach.
RCS helpline manager and national coordinator Sandie Barton said: “We’re looking at third party information sharing with the police.
“We’re just agreeing the protocol at the moment.
“The idea is that we can share it anonymously without giving the survivor’s details.
“If the police then come back and say they’re keen to speak to the survivor then if that person is ready they can speak out.
“But there’s no pressure.”
Ms Caldwell said: “We would encourage people to come forward and have the confidence in us but if people do not feel they want to come straight to a police office there are other agencies they can go to and the information can be passed to the police if they want it to be.
“We’ll investigate every report. It doesn’t matter if it happened years ago or happened last night.”