The director of a local sexual abuse group has said South Belfast’s “anonymity” is a major factor in yet another increase in sexual offences here.

Eileen Calder of the Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre was speaking after the latest meeting of the South Belfast Sub-group of the District Policing Partnership last Thursday (September 29) heard sexual offences in the local area had increased six per cent between April and June this year, up to 35 recorded incidents from 33 in the same period last year.

‘Most serious sexual crime’ increased from 22 to 26 – up 18.2 per cent – while ‘other sexual offences’ fell by the same percentage, from 11 to nine.

The clearance rate for sexual offences overall in the same period fell 1.9 per cent to 31.4 per cent, with ‘most serious sexual crime’ clearances rates down 14 per cent to 26.9 per cent and ‘other sexual offences’ up 26.3 per cent to 44.4 per cent.

Ms Calder said the statistics were proof predators were coming into South Belfast due to the unique nature of communities here.

“South Belfast as an area seems to be more anonymous than the likes of North Belfast or the Shankill, where most members of the community seem to know each other and what goes on. Sex offenders or potential offenders know they won’t get picked up on in the same way they would in those areas and so will cruise the area at night looking for victims.”

She said students living locally, especially those who have just moved into the area, were particularly vulnerable.

“You find young women, specifically those coming from country areas where everybody knows everybody, have the mindset that because they can walk down roads by themselves at night there, they can also do it in South Belfast.

“That is clearly not the case and they are therefore not prepared for the dangers they are likely to face here. It puts them in a vulnerable position and plays right into the hands of the predators.”

At last week’s meeting, South Belfast Area Commander Chief Inspector Gabriel Moran said the rise in figures were due to a number of factors, including historical child abuse cases being discovered.