Rise in cyber sex offences against children - with under fours even victims of perverts
The number of cyber sex offences against children have more than doubled, according to new figures.
The NSPCC says figures show the number of cyber offences has dramatically increased in the Cleveland Police area.
The charity also says hundreds of victims are aged under 10, with dozens of victims aged under four.
But the figures also show that there has been a fall in the number of sexual offences against children.
In the period 2015/16, the number of recorded sexual offences against children was 820. But in 2016/17 the figure had fell to 772.
Over the combined period there were 53 victims under the age of four and 259 victims under the age of 10.
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The NSPCC says police forces have also improved recording methods and more victims feel more confident in reporting abuse.
The charity is calling for Government to direct more resources to ensure high-quality training and support is available to front-line police officers to help raise awareness of safeguarding procedures and tackle child sex offences.
Temporary Detective Inspector Steve Bell, of Cleveland Police, said: “The threat from cyber crime has and will continue to grow and remains a real and significant threat to our communities.
“In response we have increased our skill set and capabilities, now working closely with other forces, academia and business to effectively and efficiently prosecute offenders and protect the public.
“Online child sexual abuse is a national threat affecting not only local children, but children of all ages, from infants to teenagers worldwide.
“Cleveland Police have invested in specialist teams to tackle the many forms of online child sexual abuse by identifying those who pose a risk to children online and, more importantly, identifying victims of online sexual abuse and exploitation, as well as preventing more youngsters becoming victims.”