By Andrew Galloway.
Argyll and Bute’s police chief has pledged to act after a “significant” rise in indecent image offences, with more than half involving children aged between 10-14.
A report to the council’s community services committee revealed that the number of crimes relating to indecent images or communication had risen from 21 in quarter two of 2019/20 to 50 at the same stage of 2020/21.
More than 30 of those offences involved youngsters aged under 14.
Chief Superintendent John Paterson, Police Scotland’s divisional commander for Argyll, Bute and West Dunbartonshire, told the committee that teachers and education staff were offering support to tackle the issue.
The community services committee held the meeting via Skype on Tuesday, December 8, when the committee’s chair, Cowal councillor Yvonne McNeilly, described the rise as “really troubling”.
Chief Supt Paterson said: “I have real concerns around the use of mobile devices by young people in terms of indecent images. We have seen a rise in this, and 30 of the young people involved are aged between 10 and 14.
“I am grateful for the support that teachers and education staff are giving in schools and we are collectively going to look into this.
“Police Scotland has a cyber strategy and we are looking at platform providers, but there is a real gap, for me, in terms of understanding and communicating the challenge.
“It is fair to say that young people live their lives in a digital world, but they are not always aware of the risks it poses.
“So we will be working with them and others on that. We need to work on it together if we are to protect our young people.”
Councillor McNeilly said: “The whole scenario around it is really troubling for all of us and I cannot stress enough how much support we want to give in working to reduce that.”
A report by the police in advance of the meeting revealed that sexual offences had increased year-on-year by 16.8 per cent in total.
However, rape crimes reduced from 31 to 17.
Chief Supt Paterson also gave an update on another cyber strategy with regards to fraud, which had also seen an increase.
He said: “The banking institutions are running their own campaigns together and started the ‘Take Five’ campaign yesterday.
“We would like members to share this campaign as widely as possible. It encourages people to take five minutes to think about who they are transferring money to.
“The people committing these frauds are unscrupulous individuals and at this time of year, will use every means possible.”