Every two minutes a sexual offence - rape, sexual violence or assault - is reported to the police in the European Union, according to Europol.
The European criminal police agency launched a campaign on Tuesday focusing on sexual violence in 18 countries, including Belgium, to track down people convicted or suspected of such acts.
“Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault,” said Europol in a press release, “although women and children suffer the most at the hands of these violent criminal acts.”
Eighteen people suspected or convicted of sexual offences are prioritised on "Most Wanted,” Europol's website dedicated to tracking down fugitives. For four weeks, law enforcement agencies in the participating countries are posting their images online and on social networks.
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The police organisation calls on the public to provide information about the criminals sought. This can be done anonymously, via the Most Wanted website. The information is then immediately passed on to the police forces investigating specific cases.
Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom are participating in the campaign.
The "Most Wanted" project has been in existence since 2016 and 91 fugitives labelled as Most Wanted have since been arrested. In at least 33 cases, the arrest has been made possible thanks to the information given via the website.
Earlier this year, Europol indicated that there was a sharp increase in the sexual exploitation of children via the internet during the coronavirus lockdown, between March and May, as sex offenders saw the lockdown as "a tempting opportunity to access a broader group of potential victims."
The Brussels Times