Facebook is the most common way groomers get in touch with young girls in Cambridgeshire, NSPCC says
PUBLISHED: 10:22 29 January 2018 | UPDATED: 10:22 29 January 2018
A total of 27 child grooming crimes were recorded in Cambridgeshire in the first six months of a new grooming law being brought into force.
Facebook was the most common method used by predators and girls aged 12-15 in Cambridgeshire were the most likely targets.
The youngest victim was ten.
Now the NSPCC is calling for social networks and the Government to develop technology to bring in grooming alerts for victims and moderators.
Before the anti-grooming law came into force in April last year, police could not step in until groomers met their victims. Now they can intervene if grooming is suspected.
Tony Stower, NSPCC head of child safety online, said: “Despite the staggering number of grooming offences in just six months, Government and social networks are not properly working together and using all the tools available to stop this crime from happening.
“Government’s internet safety strategy must require social networks to build in technology to keep their young users safe, rather than relying on police to step in once harm has already been done.”
The NSPCC ran a flaw in the law campaign after former England footballer Adam Johnson sent sexual messages to a 15-year-old girl, before meeting her and engaging in sexual activity.
Police being able to step in sooner is an important step, they say, but Government must now act to prevent grooming.
The NSPCC says algorithms are already used by social networks to detect illegal content online.
The same techniques must now be developed to alert children to potential grooming behaviour from adults they speak to online, alert moderators of suspected groomers and enable them to notify police.
The NSPCC says unusual account patterns associated with grooming can be flagged such as friending and following many young people with no mutual friends and no geographic links or getting a high number of rejected friend requests from children.
Where moderators believe criminal activity is taking place, they can notify police.
Grooming language can be automatically picked up using algorithms, says the NSPCC, to send an alert to children, allowing them to think twice about the chat they’re having and offering them support if needed.
• Children worried about inappropriate messages can contact Childline on 0800 11 11 or www.childline.org.uk.