An increase in sexual offences in the Greater Shepparton Police Service Area is an indication that people are more comfortable reporting crime, Detective Sergeant Paul Shortis says.
Crime Statistics Agency data indicates that between April 2015 and March 2016 the Shepparton 3630 postcode saw 188 sexual offences reported.
This positions Shepparton as the fourth-highest postcode area for sexual offences in Victoria.
Det Sgt Shortis oversees the Shepparton police Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT), formed in 2011.
He said although the data also indicated an increase in sexual offences across the entire Greater Shepparton PSA, including the likes of Mooroopna, Murchison and Tatura, it was nothing to worry about and meant that people were more confident in the police being able to help them.
Between July 2015 and June this year, the Greater Shepparton PSA recorded 300 sexual offences, 90 more than the previous year.
‘‘I see the increase in these figures as a positive thing,’’ he said. ‘‘Victoria Police want to see these figures trending upwards and not downwards because if they’re trending upwards that means people have got confidence in police to go and report sexual assaults.
‘‘I think traditionally — not only in Shepparton, Victoria and Australia — sexual assaults have been under-reported ... but now people are becoming more confident in SOCIT and the detectives investigating.’’
Det Sgt Shortis said there were a number of reasons why people might not report sexual offences.
‘‘Often the offenders are known to them so they’re probably scared, like in a family violence situation, and in the past there was a stigma, too, in relation to these victims,’’ he said.
Det Sgt Shortis said when it came to sexual offences there was no statute of limitations and people could report the matter to police many years after it had happened.
Det Sgt Shortis said once someone had reported it to the SOCIT unit they would deal with one detective dedicated to their case.
‘‘We are attached to the police station but we’re around the corner and have got our own private entry so I think that assists with our victims and their families as well,’’ he said.
‘‘They can come straight into our office without having to go through the police station.’’
For more information about sexual offences go to the Victoria Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) website casa.org.au/
To report a sexual offence go to Shepparton police station at 155 Welsford St, where a police officer will direct you to the SOCIT unit.