More than 370 child abuse image offences have been recorded by police in Cambridgeshire in two years, the NSPCC has revealed.
Cambridgeshire police recorded 209 offences last year (2016/17) and 164 in 2017/18 – bringing the total number of offences to 373 in two years.
The charity is warning that offenders are using social networks to target children for abuse online and grooming and manipulating them into sending inappropriate images.
A single offence recorded by police can involve hundreds of indecent images of children.
Figures obtained via Freedom of Information requests to every police force in the UK found an offence was recorded on average every 23 minutes in 2017/18, and that the number had risen by almost a quarter in a year to 22,724.
The NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign is calling on Government to prevent abuse from happening in the first place by introducing an independent regulator to hold social networks to account and tackle grooming to cut off the supply of these images at source.
Last month an NSPCC survey of 40,000 young people revealed an average of one in 50 schoolchildren had sent a nude or semi-nude image to an adult.
Tony Stower, the NSPCC’s head of child safety online, said: “Every one of these images represents a real child who has been groomed and abused to supply the demand of this appalling trade.
“The lack of adequate protections on social networks has given offenders all too easy access to children to target and abuse. This is the last chance saloon for social networks on whose platforms this abuse is often taking place.
“Our Wild West Web campaign is calling on Government to introduce a tough independent regulator to hold social networks to account and tackle grooming to cut off supply of these images at source.”
While UK authorities work to remove child abuse images from the internet, new images are constantly uploaded. In 2017, the Internet Watch Foundation identified more than 78,000 URLs containing child sexual abuse images.
The NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign is calling on Government to create an independent regulator to hold social networks to account. Join the NSPCC’s campaign and sign the petition online.