In the Media

Facebook-linked crime 'every 40 minutes'

PUBLISHED June 5, 2012

Data released under freedom of information laws showed that officers logged 12,300 alleged offences involving the popular social networking site.

Investigations of murder, rape, child sex offfences, assault, kidnap, death threats, witness intimidation and fraud made reference to the site, according to data obtained by a newspaper. The vast majority involved alleged harrassment or intimidation by cyber-bullies.

The details came from information supplied by around half of police forces in England and Wales about when Facebook was recorded in crime reports.

In some of the cases, rows started on the site sparked violence in the real world, while in others paedophiles used it to try to groom children.

In one of example from the data, obtained by the Daily Mail, a woman witness in a rape case in Cleveland was contacted by the suspect and later attacked for giving evidence against him.

In another, parents in Greater Manchester called police after a paedophile lured their 13-year-old son to send indecent pictures of himself.

A further case involved a school bus driver who used Facebook in an attempt to groom a 14-year-old boy while, elsehwhere, a jilted boyfriend posted a naked picture of his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend.

A senior detective told the Mail: "Just like a knife or a car, there is nothing intrinsically dangerous or criminal about Facebook, but just like both of those things it needs to be treated with respect because of the dangers that can be associated with its use.

"However, it has to be accepted that Facebook has made the commissioning of some crimes, such as sexual grooming, much easier than they were in the past, and we need to be aware of that."

A Facebook spokesman said that the site worked with police to bring serious offenders to justice.

"Just like mobile phones and TVs, Facebook is part of our everyday lives," he said. "Facebook users act as the world's largest neighbourhood watch and are very active in keeping the site safe.

"When matters of serious criminality are found on Facebook then we work with law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice."

Facebook launched on the New York stock market last month in a move which saw many of its staff become instant millionaires - although the value of the shares has since plummeted.