During the first full year of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s term in office, reports of child sex offenses jumped by over 30 percent, recently released figures revealed.
Those figures includes 1,200 incidents of sexual exploitation of a child in 2017 — an increase of 278, or 30.2 percent, over London’s 2016 total of 922.
Overall, approximately 3,200 reports of child exploitation or sexual abuse, including reports of children “feared to be at risk,” were made in London last year, according to the London Evening Standard.
The numbers came out even as Barnardo’s, the largest children’s charity in the U.K., launched a new program aimed at assisting child victims of rape and serious sexual assaults in two London boroughs, the Evening Standard reported.
The pilot program, called “TIGER,” has already come to the aid of 22 young victims, and the organization hoped to expand the outreach throughout London.
The program seeks to assist victims by helping them “learn how to cope with traumatic memories instead of avoiding them,” the Evening Standard reported.
“It’s not enough just to teach children about child sexual abuse and exploitation,” Jessica Juon, assistant director of children’s services at Barnardo’s London, told the Evening Standard. “They need to feel safe.”
“Children who have been sexually exploited can feel completely powerless,” she added, “and being raped or sexually assaulted often causes debilitating levels of trauma.”
The U.K. has been rocked in recent years by scandals involving “child grooming” in Telford and Rotherham, but police said they had found no evidence of such behavior in London.
That said, London police were said to be investigating “child sexual exploitation linked to gangs.”
They had also noted a “grooming gang preying on girls” near a McDonald’s restaurant in Stratford.
“Child sexual exploitation is a real priority for us and we are getting better at looking for it and dealing with it and we are encouraging people to come forward,” Detective Superintendent Steve Ellen said.
Barnardo’s and London’s Metropolitan Police Service held a conference Friday to raise public awareness of the problem of child sexual exploitation, but Scotland Yard could not explain why the number of reports was rising.
A representative was unsure as to whether more crimes were occurring, or whether a larger percentage of them were being reported to authorities.
There was no immediate word as to whether Mayor Khan attended the conference.
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