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Sexual grooming crimes increase across East Of England

Sexual grooming crimes increase across East Of England

Published by KLFM
5:29am 11th September 2019.

Sexual grooming crimes in the East of England have soared by 43 per-cent in the last year.

That's according to data obtained by the NSPCC.

Record numbers of children have been targeted on social media platforms, particularly Instagram which has doubled in the East. 

social media apps on a phone

 

In England and Wales there were 4,373 offences of sexual communication with a child recorded in the year to April 2019 compared with 3,217 in the previous year. 

The offence came into force on April 3, 2017, following an NSPCC campaign.

The data obtained from 43 police forces in England and Wales under Freedom of Information laws also revealed that, where age was provided, one in five victims were aged just 11 or younger. 

 

In 2018/19 in England and Wales the number of recorded instances of the use of Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, was more than double that of the previous year.

Overall in the last two years, Facebook-owned apps (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp) and Snapchat were used in 70% of the instances where police recorded and provided the communication method in the East of England. 

Instagram was used in more than a quarter of them, up from 62 in 2017/18 to 113 last year. 

online grooming

 

The Government has indicated it will publish a draft Online Harms Bill early next year, following the NSPCC's Wild West Web campaign.

The proposals would introduce independent regulation of social networks, with tough sanctions if they fail to keep children safe on their platforms.  

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said:

"It's now clearer than ever that Government has no time to lose in getting tough on these tech firms.  

"Despite the huge amount of pressure that social networks have come under to put basic protections in place, children are being groomed and abused on their platforms every single day.  

"These figures are yet more evidence that social networks simply won't act unless they are forced to by law. The Government needs to stand firm and bring in regulation without delay." 

online safety

 

The NSPCC's Wild West Web campaign is calling for social media regulation to require platforms to:

    • Take proactive action to identify and prevent grooming on their sites by:
    • Using Artificial Intelligence to detect suspicious behaviour
    • Sharing data with other platforms to better understand the methods offenders use and flag suspicious accounts
    • Turning off friend suggestion algorithms for children and young people, as they make it easier for groomers to identify and target children

 

They are also calling for them to design young people's accounts with the highest privacy settings, such as geo-locators off by default, contact details being private and unsearchable and live streaming limited to contacts only. 

The NSPCC recommend setting up parental controls and having open conversations with your children about the internet to try and keep them safe.

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