A spike in the number of school-related sexual offences is due to an increase in reports of ‘sexting’, the Sussex Police and Crime Panel heard last week.
At a meeting of the panel on Friday (October 5), councillors heard how the number of recorded sexual offences connected to Sussex schools had risen by more than 50 per cent last year – rising from 124 incidents in 2016/17 to 187 in 2017/18.
Discussing the figures, Mark Streater, chief executive officer for the office of the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, said the large increase in recorded incidents was down to schools taking a stronger line on ‘sexting’.
Mr Streater said: “This is very much as the result of schools being more proactive in reporting ‘sexting’, which as we know is a deeper issue with mobiles, social media, technology and youngsters.
“Sussex Police have led on several very significant campaigns with the schools to try and alert schools, parents and children of the dangers inherent of sharing pictures, as adolescents and teenagers do.
“This is very much a reflection of the increased awareness and propensity to try and deal with the issue of protecting children around that.”
While sexual offences saw the largest increase, the report also identified rising numbers of school-related crime in other areas. For example the number of burglary offences connected to schools rose from 96 in 2016/17 to 121 in 2017/18.
Meanwhile recorded incidents of violence against the person – a term used to describe wide range of offences – rose from 730 in 2016/17 to 746 in 2017/18.
There were improvements among some areas, however, with recorded incidents of school-related cannabis possession falling from 38 to 24.
Despite a decrease in some areas, the overall number of crimes reported at schools in Sussex increased – rising from 1,451 in 2016/17 to 1,527 in 2017/18.
The number of crimes reported at Sussex colleges also increased – rising from 160 in 2016/17 to 198 in 2017/18.
However the number crimes reported at universities remained the same, with a total of 141 offences reported in both 2016/17 and in 2017/18.