A rise in ‘cyber crime’ in the county has prompted Northamptonshire Police to launch an Online Safety Awareness week to help people use the internet more safely.
Latest figures show, in the last six months (January to June 2015), the force recorded 95 cyber-related criminal offences, compared with 82 in the preceding six months (July to December 2014). A total of 177 in the last 12 months
In April, more than 13,000 children, parents and carers responded to a survey asking for their experiences of being online and using social media.
The survey results revealed that one in four primary school-age children have seen something online that has upset them.
The figures also showed 11 per cent of children aged between 11 and 15 have received requests for explicit images or sexual remarks, which increased to 26 per cent amongst those aged 16 to 18.
Children are again being asked to share their experiences by going to the survey website this week.
Northamptonshire Police will also be using its social media accounts to send out a series of informative and educational messages, targeted at parents and young people, around issues such as online grooming.
Last week, as part of the lead-up to the campaign, a series of countdown messages were displayed on digivans (mobile digital screens) which travelled around the county to generate awareness.
Over the weekend, officers, staff and volunteers were mobilised to distribute 15,000 Online Safety Awareness guidance leaflets in town centres across Northamptonshire.
Assistant Chief Constable, Ivan Balhatchet, said the number of cyber crime incidents such as grooming, cyber bullying and sexting had increased in the last 18 months.
He said: “A significant risk is undoubtedly that posed by online crime with a sexual element and the number of offences containing sexual grooming is increasing.
“The on-line streaming of real-time child sexual exploitation (CSE) and abuse and the use of the ‘hidden web’ has been highlighted as a growing threat.
“This is why it is so important to engage children, young people, parents and carers, to ensure they don’t become victims in the first place.
“For those who do commit offences online, there is no safe hiding place. We will trace and prosecute offenders and will do everything we can to protect and support the vulnerable.”
Mr Balhatchet said young people needed to follow a few simple rules such as not sending inappropriate photographs and making sure they had a secure password to increase their safety using the internet
Adam Simmonds, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire, said today preventing online harm and protecting people was a key priority for both the force and the OPCC.
He said: “As well as asking children and young people to share any upsetting experiences they’ve had online, we are also providing guidance and tailored messages throughout the week so that children, young people and their parents and carers know how to stay safe.
“This is a call to action for everybody across the county to #followthemouse all of this week.”