THE increase in teenage girls being reported "missing" is one of the major reasons why sexual offences for last year were the highest in the last five years.
So said Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson as he addressed the first police press briefing for the year, which was held at the Police Administration Building in Port of Spain yesterday.
Last year, 1,020 sexual offences were reported, according to statistics from the Crime and Problem Analysis Branch (Capa) of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS).
There were 241 more sexual offences reported last year than in 2009, which accounted for the second highest figure in the five-year period.
Asked to comment on the rise in sex crimes, Richardson said: "Young girls engaging in sexual activities and sometimes they leave home, they are reported as missing, and then when we go and investigate we find that they are in a relationship."
Richardson said teenage girls, ranging in age from 14 to 16, were the main culprits.
"Now we well know from a legal standpoint they do not have the requisite capacity to give consent to indulge in that sort of behaviour, but they do, and so sometimes the parents then come and report their daughter is having an affair with x and y and we take the matter so we have those reports.
"I do not want to trivialise the matter or over simplify it, I am simply saying to allay the fears that there are rapists abounding in Trinidad and Tobago."
Richardson said the police will take action to deal with the occurrences, but called for support from the community.
"It is wrong in law, probably moral also, but we have to deal with that. Yes, we would be very robust in prosecuting members of the public who engage in sexual intercourse with females of tender age.
"The police will act in a very robust way to deal with instances of rape and other sexual offences because we want to protect our females. We love them. We love them so we would want to protect them and we will do all that is humanly possible within the law to protect them," Richardson said.
"We as a community cannot abdicate our responsibilities as fathers and aunts and big brothers and hope that only the police will deal with this matter."
Richardson said renewed confidence in the police also caused the figure to increase.
"I want to caution that there is no massive increase in sexual crimes as one may want to suggest. Rather, what probably we are seeing is more confidence being reposed in the members of the Police Service whereas before people were a little sceptical.
"Now with the increase in confidence in the police, people feel more comfortable to come and report these crimes," he said.