CHARITY chiefs have called for action after 89 grooming crimes were reported in West Mercia in the last six months of 2017, up from 20 in the previous year and just seven in 2013.
More than 6,000 grooming crimes have been recorded by police in England and Wales since April 2013, new Home Office figures show.
From April 2013 to December 2017, police in England and Wales recorded a total of 6,341 grooming offences with a total of 149 in West Mercia during the same period.
There was 2,996 grooming crimes recorded across England and Wales from April to December 2017, including the new offence of sexual communication with a child brought into force in April 2017, as well as offences for meeting a child after grooming.
The NSPCC’s #WildWestWeb campaign is calling on Culture Secretary Matt Hancock to bring in a mandatory safety code to regulate social networks to keep children safe online and help prevent grooming.
Mr Hancock is currently drawing up an Internet Safety Strategy, but it is expected to bring in a voluntary social media safety code with no plans to prevent grooming.
The charity revealed Facebook and Facebook-owned apps, Instagram and Whatsapp, were used in 52 per cent of online grooming cases where police disclosed methods used by suspects. The youngest child targeted in the first nine months of the new sexual communication with a child offence, was just two years old.
Tony Stower, NSPCC Head of Child Safety Online said the thousands of crimes showed the sheer scale of grooming where predators either messaged their victim or went to meet them.
He claimed the Government was only prepared to tackle grooming after the harm was done and its forthcoming Internet Safety Strategy had no plans to prevent grooming from happening in the first place.
“Culture Secretary Matt Hancock could change this and bring an end to the Wild West Web.”
He urged him to regulate social networks, backed by an ‘independent regulator with teeth’.