Revealed: Number of online child abuse referrals to Met Police more than DOUBLES amid calls for tougher laws to protect youngsters
- London-based unit investigating child abuse sees huge rise in number of reports
- Technology firms reporting increased number of images and grooming cases
- Detective tells parents to ensure their children are not sending indecent photos
The number of referrals to a Metropolitan Police squad tackling online child abuse has more than doubled.
The alleged crimes range from possession of abuse images through to grooming and planned abuse.
The unit received 2,514 referrals in 2018, compared with 1,050 the previous year, mostly from technology companies.
The number of cases of child abuse reported to the Met Police has more than double this year
The proportion of cases reported by tech giants also increased to 1,795 last year, an 80% rise on 2017.
So far in 2019, the unit has received 317 referrals, with 212 from the technology industry.
Detective Inspector Tony Oakes, from the Met’s Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation team, warned parents and teachers to be vigilant about children sending indecent images of themselves to strangers online.
‘What may start as a harmless conversation on a social media site could well in fact turn into online grooming where the child is asked to send explicit pictures of themselves,’ he said.
‘This image could then be shared amongst groomers until it is brought to our attention and we will do all we can to have it removed and find the person(s) responsible for its distribution.’
Most of the reports received by police are made through the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, an American non-profit organisation that works to protect children.
Police told parents to watch out for their children sending indecent pictures of themselves
US federal law requires tech firms to report child abuse.
DI Oakes added: ‘Although a referral may only show a single incident of abuse, investigators are trained to recognise and expose the fullest extent of offending.
‘A typical search of a suspect’s address may result in the seizure of a significant number of devices for examination, including laptops, mobile phones and USB sticks. This process often shows the presence of tens of thousands of indecent images of children.’