By: Local Democracy Reporter Katie May Nelson
Police are urging victims to report cases of flashing, saying the crime is a sign the perpetrators will go on to commit further harm.
Statistics have revealed there are almost 350 reports of indecent exposure made to Kent Police every year.
Between January and the end of June this year, there had been 131.
The majority of these investigations (38) ended because no suspect was identified, while 20 reports remain under investigation.
The force was asked to provide the number of reports of the offence every year since 2017.
Since then, there has been an average of 343 reports a year. The year with the highest number was 2018 with 444 – investigations in 45% of those cases ended because no suspect was identified.
Last year, there were 274 reports, 25 of which ended in a charge.
In three cases since 2017, the investigation was not completed because the offender had died.
The maximum sentence for indecent exposure is two years in custody but, according to DPP Law, most offenders are tried at magistrates’ court where the maximum sentence is six months in prison, a fine or both.
Offenders may also have their name added to the sex offenders’ register.
Detective Chief Superintendent Emma Banks, head of protecting vulnerable people at Kent Police, said: “Indecent exposure is an appalling offence that has a significant impact on victims, who are most frequently women and girls.
“We do not underestimate the harm these crimes cause, and from the moment such an incident is reported the victim receives our full support whilst investigators from our Vulnerability Investigation Teams commence a thorough investigation.
“Supporting victims is one of the key themes of Kent Police’s new strategy aimed at tackling violence against women and girls, which was created with the assistance of more than 1,000 members of the public who attended a series of community engagement events in late 2021.
“As a result, we have pledged to provide a tailored response to victims that empowers them and supports their individual needs, regardless of whether or not they support a criminal prosecution.
“This includes raising awareness both within the force and the wider community about the support available via our partners and other charitable organisations.
“Indecent exposure is a sexual offence and can often be a warning sign that the person responsible could go on to commit further harm.
“We therefore use every method at our disposal to identify a suspect and bring them to justice, and have recently made a number of arrests following reported incidents in Otford, Maidstone and elsewhere in the county.
“We continue to encourage victims of indecent exposure to report all incidents to us, even if they do not wish to pursue a criminal prosecution.
“By doing so they can help us stop the person responsible causing any further harm within the community, and ensure that the victim receives the support they deserve.”