Huge increase in online child abuse investigations

Police are investigating more cases of abuse only (posed by model)

Police are investigating more cases of abuse only (posed by model)

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The number of investigations into suspected paedophiles using the internet to abuse children online has soared in Lancashire.

As police today embark on a week-long campaign to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation, new figures show detectives are dealing with more than one case a day.

Across the county, more than 1,500 referrals were made – where there are concerns for a child’s safety – last year. Of those, 529 were recorded as crimes.

Since April, police have dealt with 339 “intelligence packages” relating to online child abuse, compared to 237 in the 12 months before.

Det Insp Tony Baxter, of Lancashire Police’s Public Protection Unit, said: “The public quite rightly expects us to protect children from being exploited, particularly as new threats emerge such as online grooming through gaming and chat forums, an area that we are highlighting through this year’s awareness week.”

This week, police will work with schools, the NHS, children’s homes, foster carers and taxi drivers to help adults recognise the warning signs of abuse.

Det Sgt Steve Ryder said the increase in referrals shows awareness campaigns are working.

He added: “More specifically in the last 12 months, there has been a lot of work done.”

The result, he added, is many cases are reported early enough for appropriate action to be taken to prevent abuse.

Det Sgt Ryder said: “A concerned parent or teacher may flag up intelligence. It may well be it’s before they get to the point of being abused.”

Report concerns to police by calling 101.