SHOCKING new figures have revealed that hundreds of children have been victims of sex offences in our region.
Data obtained by national charity NSPCC show that in 2009-10 there were 274 child sex offences in the Cleveland Police area and 249 in the Durham Police area.
Nationally 23,390 child sex offences, including rape, incest and gross indecency, were recorded by police in England and Wales in 2009-10, up eight per cent on the previous year and 13 per cent from 2007-08.
Child protection bosses said the rise was a real concern.
It comes a day after the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) revealed that there are 60 known sex offenders living in Hartlepool.
The multi-agency task force MAPPA uses an arsenal of surveillance and intelligence in a bid to make sure perverts don not re-offend
Meanwhile, a scheme to unmask paedophiles is also helping to prevent child sex abuse in town and the surrounding areas.
The Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme allows parents and carers to get information about whether people in regular contact with their children are registered as having previous convictions against youngsters.
So far 15 perverts have been uncovered to mums, dads and guardians since the scheme was launched in March 2009.
This came after 156 carers, from the Cleveland Police force area, aired concerns to police and requested information about a particular person.
The NSPCC figures from the 43 force areas showed that one in four of the 23,390 victims were aged 11 or under and more than 1,000 were four or younger.
Jon Brown, who leads on child sex abuse for the NSPCC, said: “Thousands of people come forward every year to report sex crimes against children.
“But many victims are too young to ask for help. Others are too scared to tell anyone about their suffering until years later.
“The rise in recorded sex offences against children is a real concern and we need to find ways to help victims and change the behaviour of young offenders.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said the figures were “appalling” and vowed to continue working with the NSPCC to protect the most vulnerable people.
Of the 23,390 child sex offences recorded last year, more than half (12,088) were aged 12 to 15, while around one in four were aged five to 11 (5,164) and a similar proportion were aged 16 and 17 (5,022).
One in every 25 child victims (1,028) were aged four or under and the ages of a further 88 child victims were unknown.
The figures also showed 2,200 of the 9,636 suspects were aged under 18.
A dedicated helpline for the disclosure scheme is available on (01642) 302902 and further information is available on the Cleveland Police website by logging onto www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk and selecting the link at the bottom of this story.