Grooming cases in West Midlands increase by 34% in two years
11 September 2019, 06:05
According to figures obtained by the NSPCC, the number of grooming crimes recorded by police forces across the West Midlands has risen by 34% in the last two years.
A total of 194 offences of sexual communication with a child were recorded by West Midlands, Staffordshire, West Mercia and Warwickshire police forces in 2017/19, rising to 260 in 2018/19.
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 68% of the instances where West Mercia Police recorded and provided the communication method. Instagram was used in a quarter of them.
During the same period, the Facebook-owned apps previously mentioned, as well as Snapchat, were used in 67% of the instances where Staffordshire Police recorded and provided the communication method. Instagram was used in 16% of them.
For West Midlands Police, the Facebook-owned apps, and Snapchat, were used in 83% of instances where the communication method was recorded and provided, with Instagram being used in a third of instances.
And for Warwickshire Police during the same period, the Facebook-owned apps, as well as Snapchat, were used in 73% of the instances where Staffordshire Police recorded and provided the communication method, with Instagram being used in a third of instances.
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."