The number of offences involving the possession of indecent images recorded by Thames Valley police has increased more than doubled over the last three years, according to a Freedom of Information request.
Figures obtained by the NSPCC showed that in the force’s area, there were a total of 182 indecent images offences recorded in 2013, increasing to 525 in 2015.
Across the UK, the total number of recorded crimes for the possession, distribution and production of indecent images of children rose from 4,530 in 2013 to 10,818 in 2015.
And of the investigations during that time period in which the defendant’s age was recorded, 2,031 were under 18.
The charity has called on internet providers and companies to offer greater assurances that they are doing all they can in the fight against these crimes.
Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said: “These figures clearly show that there is a growing problem of people viewing child abuse material and more needs to be done to tackle the issue.
“We want to see companies who operate online prioritise this issue by committing significant expertise and resources to preventing the publication and distribution of these images.
“Social network providers and other technology platforms must realise that they are the key enablers of online child sexual abuse and make a serious commitment to tackling it.”
The charity has also expressed concern that the significant number of children reported to police for indecent images offences may include youngsters who have shared naked ‘selfies’. The NSPCC recently published research which showed that only half of parents knew that children taking and sending naked pictures of themselves was illegal, whilst two out of five parents feared their children might be involved in ‘sexting’ but had not spoken to them about the risks.
Mr Wanless added: “It is alarming to see so many children reported to police for indecent images offences. Children need to be taught about the dangers of sending sexual pictures of themselves so they don’t find themselves at risk of harm and abuse.
“Young people who are caught ‘sexting’ put themselves at risk of sexual exploitation, grooming and cyber bullying, whilst they could also face the prospect of a criminal record if they are reported to police.”
The NSPCC has identified four key areas where they say urgent action is needed to curb abuse:
- Internet companies need to develop and share technological solutions – and make data about progress removing child abuse images publicly available;
- Young people should be able to get nude selfies removed from the internet more easily, as they can often end up in the hands of predators;
- Children and young people who have been the victim of these crimes need more easily accessible support to help them recover;
- Offenders who are convicted must be offered treatment to reduce their future risk to children.
The NSPCC has teamed up with O2 to help parents keep their children safe from grooming and other risks. Anyone needing advice on issues such as parental controls, privacy settings can get advice from the O2 & NSPCC online safety helpline on 0808 8005002.