The number of reports of violent offences against children increased by 45 per cent between 2017 and 2019.
However, Valerie Hospedales, senior supervisor in the police Child Protection Unit, said on Wednesday at the weekly police press briefing that the increase in numbers was a good thing.
She said it was a sign that more people are coming forward and reporting violence and abuse against children.
“These figures indicate that the work of the Child Protection Unit is effective in encouraging people,” Hospedales said. "It is only through transparency and your (the public's) co-operation that the Child Protection Unit can successfully execute its work."
She said the number of reports had increased by 137 per cent in the past three years. These reports resulted in hundreds of arrests.
For this year, the unit has made 29 arrests and laid 44 charges. In 2019, 214 arrests were made and 590 charges laid.
Police also worked extensively to make people aware of the rights of children, criminal offences against children and the role of the Child Protection Unit. The unit was able to sensitise over 6,300 students, parents, teachers and other members of the public.
Hospedales pointed out that 90 per cent of the offences were committed by adults, including relatives, caregivers, teachers and people in faith-based organisations.
“This is even more alarming to us,” she said.
Describing the work of the unit, she said, “What we have been doing in terms of sensitising schools: we do work with the PTA, schoolchildren, principals and safety officers...to set proper guidelines on what is an appropriate touch, what is an inappropriate touch in both primary and secondary schools.”
Hospedales also advised parents to find alternatives to corporal punishment athome. She said corporal punishment affected children negatively, and could deter them from coming forward if they are victims of even worse abuse.
“Children who are disciplined with corporal punishment tend to be more withdrawn. They would tend to avoid going to adults with pertinent information. If they face some form of danger, they may avoid us. And we need children to come forward if they are abused."
She said if your child is misbehaving and you see the need to discipline him or her, you can give them a curfew, or remove some of their gadgets or toys. If that doesn’t work find proper supervision for the child.
“Anything that would channel their attention into something more positive and constructive. We don’t want children finding other adults to get attention. Either home or with the police is where a child should be.”
She encouraged the public to report any incidents of abuse.
"Your assistance can save a child's life. It is important, and it is the law. If you see something, say something."