Rapists are increasingly using personal ads to trick women into meeting up with them, a senior police officer warned yesterday.
Newspapers listings that on face value appear to be genuine messages from men trying to find love may actually have been placed by sexual predators, according to Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris.
ACC Harris said officers in specialised PSNI units to combat rape and other sexual assaults had noted the tactic was on the rise.
“We are noticing patterns already around rape crime,” he told a monthly meeting of the NI Policing Board in Belfast.
“And the classic modus operandi has developed and it is seen to be around the targeting of vulnerable women, particularly in places of entertainment where there are vulnerable through taking too much alcohol.
“But additionally women are being targeted through the personal ads, in papers for instance, and then subsequently raped.
We’ve seen our clearance rate for rape and attempted rape increase
“So what we are trying to find out, are there repeat offenders out there and what exactly is the problem we have?”
Though sexual offences are on the decrease in the region (747 this year compared to 855 at the same time last year) ACC Harris said the true extent of the problem was difficult to gauge given the continued problem with under-reporting.
“We’ve seen our clearance rate for rape and attempted rape increase from 15.7% to 22% in the very recent past,” he added.
“The very best forces are sitting at approximately 29% so very much that is what our aim is and we want to reassure the board that’s where our intent is — to really get a good grip on the problem of serious sexual assault and hammer home at it.”
He said the PSNI was liaising with charities and support groups in an effort to encourage more women to come to the police if they are attacked. The officer said £500,000 had recently been spent to upgrade the PSNI forensic medical facilities.