Over 400 offences have been recorded by the police in the last five years relating to online grooming, a figure that "may be the tip of the iceberg."

Figures revealed by the NSPCC reveal that in Suffolk, 412 offences relating to sexual communication with a child were reported.

In Suffolk, there was a 37% five-year increase from 2017 to 2023, growing from 52 to 71. 

There has not been any year on year growth of reports. 

Tim Passmore, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner said: "The level of known grooming offences against children in Suffolk is very serious concern for us all.

East Anglian Daily Times: Tim Passmore, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner. Credit: Charlotte BondTim Passmore, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner. Credit: Charlotte Bond (Image: Charlotte Bond)

"Sadly this may be the tip of the iceberg.

"The effects on the victims can be absolutely devastating.

"Whilst social media has many advantages for society there can be some very sinister activity which must never be tolerated including the grooming of our children.

"As PCC I will continue to ensure the investment in our state-of-the-art cyber unit is delivered, safeguarding our young people, improving online safety and bringing perpetrators to justice.

"This crime is utterly abhorrent."

Suffolk Constabulary Chief Superintendent Kerry Cutler said: "The rise in internet usage has in turn led to an increase in online crime and so we actively encourage people to report any offences to us.

East Anglian Daily Times: Kerry Cutler, Chief Superintendent at Suffolk Constabulary. Credit: NewsquestKerry Cutler, Chief Superintendent at Suffolk Constabulary. Credit: Newsquest (Image: Newsquest)

"Sexual predators will target a child's vulnerabilities and will then work on gaining their trust, isolating them and creating situations where they can be alone together.

"Online social media platforms provide a place for a lot of this to happen in private especially where a child's activity is not closely monitored.

"Suffolk Police, along with our partner agencies, encourage all parents and guardians of children who use social media to foster responsible use by the child, to raise awareness of the dangers and be aware of who their child is communicating with.

"A lack of peer group interaction and low self-esteem are often vulnerabilities that are exploited and put them at risk.

"We will comprehensively investigate reports of sexual offences, with dedicated officers working closely with the victims of such offences to bring offenders to justice."

A statement from the Suffolk Safeguarding Partnership said: "Online grooming can be rapid and before a child’s parents, teachers or the child’s friends realise it, the child can be lured into a trap.

"The best prevention is teaching children about the risks and to have their own personal safety plans, similar to warning about financial scamming for adults.

"We work hard to fund and promote training for professionals and also to promote effective multi-agency working including disrupting exploiters and raising awareness amongst those working directly with a child to be aware of any warning signs of child exploitation.

"This is hard as the signs of harm are often hidden, as is the child’s reaction to what is going on."