SEX offences are rising in the SAR despite a slight drop in the crime rate, according to Security Bureau figures released yesterday. A total of 57 rapes and 701 indecent assaults were reported in the first seven months this year, compared with 48 rapes and 649 assaults during the same period last year. Acting Secretary for Security Raymond Wong Hung-chiu said crimes against women were one of the few areas showing a marked increase in the past year. But he argued the data indicated a greater willingness on the part of sex crime victims to come forward, rather than a real increase in violence. 'I think victims are less scared to file reports and police officers handling rape and assault cases have been given sensitivity training,' Mr Wong said. Fight Crime Committee member and YWCA general secretary Alice Yuk Tak-fun said a longer period would need to be studied to determine if the rise reflected a trend. Criminal damage cases leapt 21 per cent from 2,662 cases to 3,229 cases, mostly related to debt collection. Mr Wong said tougher laws on debt collectors were being considered in light of the finding. Overall, there has been a 0.4 per cent drop in crime reports, from 40,170 cases down to 40,009. Violent crimes such as murders and robberies with firearms have dropped 0.6 per cent, from 8,200 last year to 8,151. The number of homicides was 37, compared to 73 last year, when 17 people were killed in the arson attack on the Top One karaoke bar.