Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are cause of nearly 2,000 crimes in Suffolk including rape and harrassment

The Cyber Crime Unit - a partnership between Norfolk and Suffolk police

The Cyber Crime Unit - a partnership between Norfolk and Suffolk police - Credit: Nick Butcher

Cyber crime in Suffolk has hit an all-time high, with 400 offences in the first half of this year.

Serious crimes ranging from rape, theft, harassment and fraud have been linked to abuse of social media, say Suffolk police.

Between January 2011 and July 8 this year, the force recorded 1,956 crimes involving social media. The figures, released under Freedom of Information laws, have steadily risen since 2012 when 359 offences were recorded, increasing to 389 in 2013, 442 in 2014, and 400 in the first six months of this year.

Out of these crimes, only 177 offenders were charged, and in 1,670 cases, suspects were either not identified or no further action was taken.

A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said complaints about alleged crimes linked to the use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram had increased with the sites’ popularity.


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“People have a right to publish their views and images but when these become indecent, threatening or offensive then the individuals they affect also have the right to report them,” he added. “The public has a responsibility to keep their comments on social networks within the law. If they are not then the police will assist with any prosecution.”

During the period, 331 of the crimes involved victims aged under 16, five of whom were aged 10 or under.

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In September 2013, a boy was charged for possessing an indecent photograph of a girl under the age of 10 via Facebook.

In January 2014, a male purportedly caused or incited a female aged under 10 to engage in a sexual act through the use of Instagram – a suspect was not identified. In December, police were told a girl aged 10 or under was harassed on Facebook by a 21-year-old woman but it resulted in no police action.

Suffolk Constabulary linked the rape of a girl aged under 10 to Facebook in July but a suspect was not identified.

The fifth involved a young boy who allegedly received a death threat on Facebook but a date and suspect were not recorded.

Almost 250 of the known suspects in the 1,956 crimes were aged under 16.

Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said cyber-bullying was a “real concern” for young people.

A county council survey showed online aggression, including cyber-bullying, discrimination and homophobic bullying, doubles between the ages of 10–11 and 14–15.

“We work closely with schools to ensure young people are aware of the potential dangers of being online,” he added. “I would urge any young person who is concerned about or experiencing any form of online bullying to speak out and talk to their parents, teachers or another trusted adult.”

The site that has seen the most crimes linked to it by a vast majority (1,448) is Facebook, followed by Twitter (36) then Instagram (30).

Facebook and Instagram declined to comment on the issue but both stressed they had a number of tools in place to safeguard its users. Twitter also gave no comment.

Out of the victims who were identified, 1,336 were female and 534 were male. Only 16 of the victims were over the age of 60, the oldest was 75.

An NSPCC spokeswoman said keeping children safe online was “the biggest child protection challenge of this generation”.

“Parents have a key role to play in their children’s online lives but we know some feel out of their depth,” she added.

“It’s important to have open, honest conversations – talk to your child about their favourite sites and what they like doing online. Building trust and openness keeps everyone safe.

“Keep your knowledge up-to-date – having the right information at your fingertips will help you feel confident and in control.”

The charity has a ‘Net Aware’ tool on its website which offers a guide to the social networks, sites and apps children use.

Advice to parents who suspect their child may be a victom of cyber abuse includes explaining what bullying is and asking if they are being bullied, let them know they can talk to you or another trusted adult, help them find things to do that make them feel good to build their confidence and talk to their school.

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