Partygoers should stay with their friends and ensure they have a safe way to get home

Darlington and Stockton Times: Police warn revellers to protect themselves against sexual crime after increase in rapes Police warn revellers to protect themselves against sexual crime after increase in rapes

POLICE are warning revellers to take care to protect themselves from rape during the festive season after an increase in sexual assaults across Teesside.

While Cleveland Police said they didn’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the festive season, they urged people not to drink too much, not to wander off alone and to make sure they had arrangements to get home safely.

Chief Superintendent Darren Best, head of crime for Cleveland Police, said: “While the force has recorded an increase in the number of rapes, this can be seen as a positive development.

"It suggests, quite rightly that victims of sexual assault or rape can be completely confident that we will investigate thoroughly any allegation of these serious crimes.

“I would also like to warn anyone tempted to target someone who is perhaps vulnerable through drink or through having been separated from their friends that we will always do everything possible to bring perpetrators before the courts.”

He said Cleveland police was involved in part of a Rape Strategy Forum to provide the best response for victims – which may or may not be through the courts.

The force recorded 190 offences of rape in 2012-2013, compared with 177 in 2011 - 2012.

Chief Supt Best conceded that not all allegations lead to a prosecution or to a conviction but he urged victims to come forward so they can receive the best possible care and support.

Sue Smith, of the Sexual Assault Referral Centre, said staff supported victims of rape and sexual assault – and could sometimes obtain and store evidence without police involvement to give victims time to consider options without fear or losing evidence if they wanted to report later.

Anyone experiencing rape or sexual assault can access help and support through their local Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) on 01642-516888.

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