Grooming crimes recorded in Lincolnshire have increased in the last year, the NSPCC charity has revealed in a new study.
Some 94 offences of sexual communication with a child was recorded in Lincolnshire in the year up to April 2019, compared with 84 the previous year (a 12% rise).
However, this is compared with a rise of 36% across England and Wales.
The new offence came into force on April 3, 2017 following and NSPCC campaign.
Data was obtained from 43 police forces under the Freedom of Information Act. The research also revealed that, where ages were provided, one in five victims was aged 11 or younger.
The number of instances of the use of Instagram, 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 80% of the instances where Lincolnshire Police recorded and provided the communication method. Instagram was used in 32% of them.
Freya (whose real name has been protected) was 12 when, while she was staying at a friend’s house, a stranger bombarded her Instagram account with sexual messages and videos.
Her mum Pippa (name also changed) told the NSPCC: “She was quiet and seemed on edge when she came home the next day. I noticed her shaking and knew there was something wrong so encouraged her to tell me what the problem was.
“When she showed me the messages, I just felt sick.
“It was such a violation and he was so persistent. He knew she was 12, but he kept bombarding her with texts and explicit videos and images. Freya* didn’t even understand what she was looking at. There were pages and pages of messages, he just didn’t give up.
“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.”
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.”
Inspector Ian Martin from Lincolnshire Police said: “Crimes against children and vulnerable persons are completely abhorrent, and have no place in our society.
“Lincolnshire Police works hard with other agencies to protect the public. It is extremely positive that people feel confident to come to the police to report offences, and while we see a rise in crime numbers throughout the last 12 months, this is in part due to accurate crime recording as well as that encouragement to come forward.
“Having information about a rise in offences enables us to respond appropriately to the demand that we see, and we use this, along with other information, to ensure our resources focus in the right way.
“I would take this opportunity to ask anyone, be they a child, young person, or family member to report suspicious behaviours or offences around grooming, either to Lincolnshire Police on 101 or through the NSPCC or Crimestoppers anonymously.”