The number of sexual assaults reported in Vancouver has jumped by 21 per cent this year, according to statistics released Monday by police.

Vancouver Police Department Chief Jim Chu told reporters that 246 sexual assaults have been reported in the city so far this year, up from 213 in the same period last year.

"A lot of them are gropings," Chu said. "There has been an increase in gropings, and women are coming forward to report them."

Police have responded to seven aggravated sexual assaults this year, up from just one last year.

Summer-Rain Bentham of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter told CTV News that the group would like to see police take sexual assaults more seriously

"In all other areas of violent crimes, police have taken preventative measures...except for crimes that relate to violence against women," she said.

But Simon Fraser University criminologist Rob Gordon said the number of reported sexual assaults remains low for a city of Vancouver's size.

"The statistics indicate a nasty little percentage increase, but the raw numbers are not that huge," he said.

Most other types of crime have dropped

Chu said that sex assaults are a notable exception in a year that has seen the total number of crimes reported drop by 7.5 per cent.

"While every category of crime seems to be falling, there are always stubborn exceptions," he said.

So far in 2010, murders and attempted murders have both decreased significantly compared to the same period last year, with the number of homicides cut in half, and attempted homicides down by 75 per cent.

The number of break-ins reported this year has dropped by 10 per cent compared to last year, while theft from vehicles fell by more than 20 per cent.

Gordon described the latest numbers as "good-news statistics," and credited crime prevention strategies like the so-called Con Air program, which shipped people wanted on outstanding warrants back to their home provinces.

"The removal of chronic offenders who have come to Vancouver...that always has a good impact on crime rates," Gordon said.