Sexual grooming crimes soar by 140% in Milton Keynes region

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Sexual grooming crimes have soared in the Thames Valley region with record numbers of children targeted on Instagram, according to the NSPCC.

Thames Valley Police (TVP) recorded 274 offences of sexual communication with a child in the year to April 2019, a 140 per cent rise on the previous year.

And they say the number of children targeted on Instagram has risen significantly.

A parent of a 12-year-old victim of grooming said: “Our children should be safe in their bedrooms, but they’re not. They should be safe from messages from strangers if their accounts are on private, but they’re not.”

In the last two years, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat were used in 77 per cent of grooming crimes where TVP recorded and provided the communication method.

Thames Valley Police said: "We have seen a growing number of cases where children and young people have been targeted through popular apps and social media platforms but we know many incidents still go unreported.

"It is our priority to engage with the public to make sure children and young people are aware of the dangers of online grooming.

"Keeping children safe from harm is all of our responsibility, we rely on information from members of the public to identify crimes and keep victims safe."

The NSPCC said across the UK, police recorded 4,373 offences of sexual communication with a child in the year to April 2019, compared with 3,217 the previous year.

And 34 per cent of those cases involved Instagram compared to a fifth of cases the previous year.

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.”