RESEARCH has revealed that more than 500 sex offences against children were reported to Northumbria Police last year.
A freedom of information request by children’s charity NSPCC revealed that the force recorded 552 sex offences against children including rape, incest and gross indecency in 2009-10.
Most reports concerned children aged 12 to 15, however, 21 victims were pre-school age and 120 aged between five and 11.
The figures show, for the first time, the number of young people accused of committing child sex offences – 100 known suspects were under 18.
Pat Buckley, NSPCC service manager for Newcastle, said: “We need to find ways to help victims and change the behaviour of young offenders.
“One hundred suspects in these cases in Northumbria were under 18, it’s clear we need more services that address the harmful sexual behaviour of young people, as well as adult offenders.”
Ms Buckley said two UK-wide programmes were about to be launched to prevent young people from sexually harming others.
Ms Buckley added: “We urge everyone to be vigilant and report any concerns they have about a child.”
Superintendent Steve Wade, of Northumbria Police’s public protection unit, said: “We take every reported allegation of sexual abuse against a child or young person extremely seriously.
“We conduct thorough investigations using specialist staff and work hand in hand with the NSPCC and other partner agencies to safeguard children and young people to help protect them.
“These incidents are dealt with in a highly confidential and sensitive way, with the welfare and safety of the young people being of paramount importance.
“Police, health and social services departments are working closely with young people to encourage the reporting of these types of incidents and this has led to an increase in the number of reported incidents.”