REGISTERED sex offender numbers in North Yorkshire are set to increase by almost a half in just four years, according to police.

Figures revealed by North Yorkshire Police reveal the rapidly growing number of sex offenders being managed in the community and in custody in North Yorkshire.

In 2016, 895 registered sex offenders (RSOs) were being managed in the region - 697 in the community and 198 in custody.

But in January 2018 that number had increased to 1,092 - 793 in the community, with 267 in custody.

Detective Superintendent Allan Harder, of North Yorkshire Police, said that figure was expected to increase further in coming years.

And he predicted that by 2020 the number could hit 1,300 RSOs - a 45 per cent hike on 2016.

He said: “If we use those numbers as a basis in the four year gap in the future, by 2020 the numbers that we would be looking to manage would be between 1,250 and 1,300 registered sex offenders - that’s the demand we’re looking to see in the future.”

Of the RSOs being managed in North Yorkshire, only a handful - two, as of January 2018 - were considered very high risk, or predatory.

Det Supt Harder said the county’s numbers were “probably mid-table” and “not an outlier” compared with similar sized forces in North Wales, Norfolk, Devon and Cornwall, Suffolk or Gloucestershire.

One reason for the increase in RSOs was an increased focus on low-risk offenders - those who did not pose a significant risk to the public, and who may have downloaded indecent images of children, or who committed “non-contact offences”.

Increased use of technology to share images - including young people sharing images with other young people - would not previously have been registered with police.

Det Supt Harder said further reasons for the increase included “an increase in victims coming forward, more offenders being convicted, improved methods of detection in respect of people accessing indecent images online and investment in our cybercrime unit”.

He said offenders also remained on the register for long periods, leading to a cumulative rise as more people are convicted.

The force works with partner agencies within Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA), to ensure safeguarding measures are in place and regularly reviewed to minimise risk to the public.

Det Supt Harder said: “It is important to understand that the number of very high risk registered sex offenders in North Yorkshire is a very small percentage of the total numbers that we manage daily.

"As a result the specialist officers who have been trained to closely supervise and manage such offenders can complete their work more effectively, working with other agencies to support and prevent further offending.”

Det Supt Harder urged anyone who has been affected by a sex offences, recent or historical, to speak out about it, either to police or other agencies.

He said: “It does not matter when the abuse happened, whether it is happening now or if it happened many years ago. What is important is that victims get the help and support they need.

“Your information may also help to protect other victims and help the police to build up a wider picture of someone’s offending. Even if your abuser has died, you may still need help to come to terms with what has happened to you.”

To report a sexual crime to the police call 101 or 999 in an emergency. Childline’s 24-hour helpline is 0800 1111, and the NSPCC online safety helpline is 0800 8005002.