Police recorded more than 660 child sex offences in Lincolnshire last year, while many more life-shattering crimes are feared unreported.
The force says it has seen year on year increases in reports of sexual crimes against children, however latest annual numbers were down by just under 3% in the county compared with record increases across the UK.
For the year 2016/17, there were 663 recorded child sex offences in Lincolnshire, around 30 of which were committed against children aged three or younger.
Almost 10% of all offences were flagged as having an online element.
Despite staggering numbers of sexual offences against minors, figures provide just a snapshot of the true picture, warned children’s charity NSPCC, which published a national report into the issue on Tuesday, February 20.
Across the UK, NSPCC says the number of sex offences against children rose to a record 64,667 (15%) – an average of one offence every eight minutes.
The charity’s figures were obtained from police forces across the county through Freedom of Information requests.
Lincolnshire Police disputed figures used however, as FOI requests they received had asked for slightly different information and were not comparable – ‘reported’ crimes in 2015/16 (738) and ‘recorded’ crimes in 2016/17 (666).
The force said the current child sex crime figure for 2016/17 had also been altered since the request was made from 666 to 663 due to adjustments in individual cases.
Detective Superintendent Di Coulson, Head of the Public Protection Unit, said: “We have specialist officers that are trained to support victims with sensitivity and dignity.
“From the moment a case is reported, to the investigation, to the court process, we strive for justice for those affected by child sex offences. We urge anyone who has suffered, to have the courage to come and speak to us.
“We have seen year on year increases in reports of child sexual offences up until 2016/17 where these figures show a small decrease (682 to 663).
“We take every opportunity to promote reporting and educate people on how to spot the signs and what to do if they become, or know a victim. Today we are supporting the Department for Education campaign Together, we can tackle child abuse.”
NSPCC charity staff and volnteers on the Speak Out. Stay Safe (SOSS) programme have visited 140 schools in Lincolnshire and spoken with 28,066 children in order to raise awareness of the dangers.
NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said: “These abhorrent crimes can shatter a child’s life, leaving them to feel humiliated, depressed, or even suicidal.
“That is why it is crucial every single child who has endured abuse and needs support must get timely, thorough help so they can learn to rebuild their lives.
“These new figures suggest the police are making real progress in how they investigate sex offences against children.
“To help them tackle the issue going forward, we must ensure the police are equipped to work with other agencies and provide on-going support and training to officers on the front line.”