Police forces across the UK have seen a 43 per cent increase in reports of crimes involving social networking site Instagram, according to official data.
The findings, obtained by the Parliament Street think tank using Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation show that reports of Instagram related crimes in the most recent financial year (FY 18-19) stood at 8,905, a sharp increase on the previous year of 6,238. Police notes from the 23 forces which responded to the request for information suggest that the site is being used by paedophiles, stalkers, burglars and drug dealers to commit crimes.
Surrey Police reported the highest overall figures during the two-year period, with a grand total of 2,142 incidents logged. 550 of these offences fell into the ‘malicious communications’ category.
The next highest was Greater Manchester Police with a grand total of 1,279 incidents over the period, the majority of which related to harassment.
In terms of rising crime numbers, West Yorkshire Police saw a 105 per cent rise in incidents from 379 reports to 777 over the period.
Essex Police saw a rise of 99 per cent, jumping from 324 to 645 incidents. 680 offences were listed as ‘involving violence without injury’
In Cumbria, there were 61 cases of stalking and harassment and one case of racially or religiously aggravated public fear, alarm or distress. In the West Midlands there were 214 reports of ‘sending threatening communication or a threatening message.
Cheshire police reported 46 cases of sexual activity involving a child under 16 years of age between 2018/19. Nottinghamshire reported 148 cases of Stalking and harassment on Instagram. Lincolnshire police reported 38 cases of sexual grooming since 2017.
Social media sites are seeing a major surge in criminal activity with perpetrators assuming they can avoid detection using fake profiles and stolen log-in details, often obtained via the dark web. This new wave of crime poses huge challenges for police officers, who are tasked with identifying those responsible whilst protecting vulnerable victims in complex circumstances. Tackling this growing threat means ensuring officers of every rank are properly supported with the latest cyber skills training, so they are up to speed with online threats and can quickly identify and convict those responsible.