The north’s police chief has said that the force is working to improve its understanding of a rise in sex crimes taking place online and behind closed doors.
A total of 489 sex crimes have been investigated in the past year, compared to 373 in the last year.
Chief Superintendent Philip MacRae, who took on the area commander role last month, welcomed the increase yesterday, saying a change in procedure had increased confidence among the public to report sex crimes.
However, he said work was going to try and understand the changing nature of offences.
He said: “We have seen an increase in sexual crime. I do believe that is as a response to the changes in practice that police have put in place over the years and I think the result of that is people are more comfortable in reporting incidents to the police.
“They will get a proper hearing, a proper investigation and the outcomes for those who have experienced sexual crimes are better.
“In terms of the changing look of sexual crimes, we are recognising that childhood sexual exploitation over the internet and online is something that is becoming more prevalent.
“We have some work which is being undertaken at the moment to look at the occurrence of crime in private spaces with new technology.
“That’s definitely an area where we are needing to look closer at and consider a wider response in how we deal with that.”
He said he would be happy to work with any other groups who would be able to help address the issue.
Ch Supt MacRae was adressing Highland councillors yesterday.
Councillor Janet Campbell said the increase was a “worrying trend” and that an initial rise following high profile scandals such as the Jimmy Saville could be put down to increased confidence among victims.
She added: “But I fell there is maybe more than that now and I feel that we need to look at the possible contributing factors and consider the potential preventative initiatives or some kind of campaign.
“Some kind of conversation has to be had here around sexual crimes.
“I know with the internet and social media lots of things happen behind closed doors and it is an extremely difficult one but I don feel some kind of conversation has to be had.”