Violent and sexual crimes in West Dunbartonshire have increased since 2022 according to new reports published by Police Scotland.

Figures presented to members of the housing and communities committee show that between April and June this year crimes of violence increased by 16.7 per cent compared to the previous year to date while sexual crimes rose by 12.1 per cent.

There were 65 sexual crimes recorded compared to 58 last year with rape and sexual assault rising from 9 to 12 and 19 to 23 incidents respectively.

Meanwhile, there were 56 crimes of violence in 2023/24 which is above the five-year average of 43.6, with threats and extortion rising from 0 to 8.

During a recent meeting, Police Scotland informed members that these crimes largely consisted of sextortion offences committed online where victims were threatened to post indecent images on social media unless sums of money were paid.

Officers are working hard to educate young people on the dangers of the internet to prevent more people falling victim to it.

Deputy leader of the council, Michelle McGinty, asked what more the council could do to help raise awareness of the crimes.

Councillor McGinty said: “My concerns are about the increase in sexual crimes and we know that some of that is historic but between that and the violent crimes there has been a significant increase even over the last five-year period where we are still at an all-time high.

“Some of that includes threats and extortion online – something that we know is very hard to police as it is a newer type of crime and we are looking at how we tackle that.

“On the back of that, a lot of it is about education as a lot will be about younger children that we have to take through the criminal justice system.

“So how are we as a community and as a council able to support yourselves in some of these issues? Is it about education?”

The report presented to committee members affirms that reducing violence within the communities remains a top priority.

Police Scotland uses analytical research and local intelligence to identify hot spot locations and continue to engage with their partners to maximise its efforts to disrupt and reduce the opportunities for violence to occur. These tactics include targeting known drinking dens, neighbour disputes and ASB hotspots.

West Dunbartonshire Council was also advised it could help raise awareness against sextortion online through social media.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Violent crime is up – there is no question about that.

“Without being dismissive the percentage increase equates to eight crimes which are almost exclusively sextortion crimes and really not what we would call a contact offence but the impact on victims is huge because it really affects their confidence and it is a crime that we do take very seriously.

“It is all about education. We work very closely with our partners in education, we get a great deal of support from West Dunbartonshire Council in terms of educating young people.

“Much of these sextortion crimes come from abroad and people making contact pretending to be someone else. Images are exchanged and the threats are put out there.

“We need to find ways to communicate with the harder-to-reach groups in terms of adults. We have got a couple of older people who have been impacted by this sort of crime.”