The police have referred a record-high 37,113 suspected victims of child abuse to child welfare authorities in the first half of this year, a report released Thursday showed.

The preliminary figure marks an increase of 6,851 children age 17 or younger compared to the same period last year, according to the National Police Agency.

The agency believes the figures do not necessarily indicate there is a general increase in abuse, but rather that people are reporting more suspected cases to authorities amid heightened public awareness.