Thursday, 26 November 2015

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Big increase in social networking crimes in Cumbria

REPORTS of crimes involving social networking sites have gone up dramatically in Cumbria in four years.

New figures show there were 46 offences in the last year where sites such as Facebook and Twitter were a factor, compared to just three in 2008.

Fourteen charges were made in connection with this year’s crimes. There were no charges linked to the three offences four years before. Details of the offences have not been revealed.

Across the country complaints about crimes involving social networking sites went up by 780 per cent over the same period, leading to about 650 people being charged last year.

Detective Chief Inspector Lee Johnson, of Cumbria police, stressed 46 was still a very low level of crime but added it was no surprise that numbers had gone up in recent years.

“Everybody now has got a smart phone,” he said. “It is the norm, therefore it’s no surprise that these will be used to commit crime.

“It can be fraud. We know social media is used for grooming young people, it can also be used for co-ordinating criminal activity.

“Criminals will talk to each other using Facebook and Twitter.”

DCI Johnson advised parents to check they had the right settings to limit online access so children could not get onto inappropriate sites.

He also said it was important to check children’s Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts regularly to see who they were friends with and that their security settings were up to date.

Chief Constable Andy Trotter, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ expert on communications, said the figures nationally demonstrated a new challenge. He added it was important forces prioritised social networking crimes that caused genuine harm, rather than attempting to curb freedom of expression.

“It is a new world for all and we could end up in a situation where each constabulary needs a dedicated Twitter squad,” he added.

“In my opinion, that would not be a good use of resources in difficult financial times.

“We need to accept that people have the right to communicate, even to communicate in an obnoxious or disagreeable way, and there is no desire on the part of the police to get involved in that judgement. But equally, there are many offences involving social media such as harassment or genuine threats of violence which cause real harm.

“It is that higher end of offending which forces need to concentrate on.”


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