There’s a touch of irony about latest figures showing a worrying increase in sexual crime.
While police don’t like a rise in any category of crime, this one – a trend across the whole of the UK – isn’t as bad as it seems at first glance.
The number of sex crimes recorded in the Forth Valley area jumped from 274 last year to 289 for 2015/16 and up 67 on 2013/14 statistics. It was the only crime category that rose over the period.
A growth in crimes of this nature is obviously concerning, but police data shows a rise in public confidence in reporting sex crimes, coupled with a surge in victims of historic sexual abuse coming forward, sometimes up to 40 years after the crimes took place.
The escalation of sexual crime is UK-wide and there is no doubt the high profile Jimmy Saville case gave people that confidence to report abuse, but police say it’s difficult to pinpoint any single reason for the upsurge.
Detective Chief Inspector Gary Boyd is the man at the helm of the Forth Valley Division’s Public Protection Unit dedicated to investigating sexual crimes.
Based in Larbert’s Central Business Park with a team of around 60 specially trained staff and officers, the group use every measure at their disposal to prevent predatory crimes including domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, child and adult abuse and exploitation.
The unit has five main areas: MASH – Multi Agency Assessment and Screening Hub; domestic abuse investigation unit, incorporating young runaways and missing persons; family protection Unit – child and adult protection issues; divisional rape investigation unit; offender management unit – registered sex offenders.
DCI Boyd said: “No one could probably tell you why, the one reason why the figures for sexual crime have increased, but we can say that increased reporting could be attributed to the increased confidence that the public now has to come forward.
“The increased confidence that no matter how long ago anything happened or how long ago you were the victim of a crime, you’ve got a voice. I know that sounds clichéd but it’s absolutely true.
“It doesn’t matter if it was ten minutes ago or ten, 20 or 30 years ago, it doesn’t matter. These people have a voice, these individuals who suffered and were the victims of crime, we’ll listen to them, we’ll investigate that crime just as thoroughly as if it happened five minutes ago.”
The DCI said everything the unit does is designed to prevent crimes before they can occur.
He added: “Everything that we do here has got prevention all the way through it. Whether it be the early intervention of children and young people to the methods that we use to investigate rape and serious sexual offences.
“We have specially trained staff and increased investigatory techniques we have like DNA 24. The DNA system previously would look for eight markers within a sample, now we’re up to 24. That increased scrutiny means that we’ve got a greater chance of detecting offenders, we’ve got a greater chance of detecting offenders from historical cases.
“It’s all prevention in this building.”
‘You don’t become desensitised’
Domestic abuse is another crime which has a major focus for the Public Protection Unit.
Detective Inspector Pat Scroggie has heralded the Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse as the best legislation to help tackle the issue in a generation.
The legislation give people the power make enquiries about someone they suspect of having a history of domestic abuse. If their suspicions prove true, police will approach anyone in a relationship with a person with convictions with the information, giving them the choice of staying with an abuser or leaving the relationship.
DI Scroggie said: “The domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme is a year old now and there’s been over 1000 referrals made across the country.
“For me, having worked in this business for too long to remember, I think it’s one of the best pieces of legislation that has came in for over a decade.
“It allows that individual the right to make an informed choice. Previously, and we’ve seen it before, there’s been females who have been murdered or violently assaulted and then when the parent or relatives find out the partner has been in abusive relationships, they ask, ‘Why did nobody tell us?’.”
DI Scroggie has spent 24 years in child protection, but the crimes he witnesses always leave an indelible mark on him.
He added: “I don’t think you become hardened or desensitised, but somebody’s got to do the job. You’ll find that people who are in here working in this world genuinely care about people, they want to protect them, they want to do what’s right for them.
“Every day, unfortunately, there’s some form of human tragedy that we’ve got to pick up the pieces and drive forward.”
“There’s a lot of investment in staff, in training here. There are a lot of bad things that happen in the world but people should know that there are people here working, not just behind the scenes, but in front of them, who are trying to actively protect them.”