Crimes committed on Facebook have soared by a staggering 7,400 per cent in the past three years, a police force revealed yesterday.
Police chiefs in Cambridgeshire have admitted that 1,640 crimes reported since January this year have involved the social networking site.
This startling figure is compared to only 22 Facebook crimes reported to police in 2007, 155 in 2008 and 796 in 2009.
The website has been used by perverts to groom victims and criminals to make threats, intimidate, bully and harass.
Campaign groups claim sex offenders use websites such as Facebook and conceal their identity to snare children and women.
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire Constabulary said every Facebook crime is individually investigated.
He added: ”Facebook is an emerging mode of communication which due to its popularity and for a variety of reasons has come more and more into contact with police work.
”Incidents involving Facebook are dealt with on a case by case basis by the officer or member of staff dealing with the incident or crime.”
Det Sgt Darren Cooper, of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, added many of crimes are related to on-line bullying involving vulnerable kids.
He said: ”Everyone seems to be using it and we certainly get a lot of calls that are Facebook related.
”Parents of pupils have gone down to schools to report their child has been bullied through Facebook. It is used to make threats.”
The popular website has this year been linked to 255 incidents of domestic violence, 426 reports of malicious nuisance and 210 of anti-social behaviour in Cambridge.
The first Facebook nuisance crime was reported to Cambridgeshire cops in May 2007.
Cops have also used the social networking site to track down criminals who have breached bail conditions on at least four occasions.
The website was launched in February 2004 and in July this year had more than 500 million active users.
In April Nottinghamshire Police reported a 364 per cent increase of crimes allegedly involving Facebook in less than a year.
Incidents such as harassment, abuse and other crimes soared from 13 between April 2008 and March 2009 to 58 between April 2009 and February this year.
Facebook came under pressure last month for not doing enough to protect children from online predators after a man was convicted of murdering a teenager he groomed on the site.
Serial sex attacker Peter Chapman was jailed for life for kidnapping, raping and murdering 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall from Darlington after using a false identity to befriend and entrap the schoolgirl online.
The Child Exploitation and On-line Protection (CEOP) said in the first four months of 2010 they recorded 253 reports of Facebook crimes including 99 incidents of ‘grooming’.
The spokesman added: ”It’s a sad fact that we are now seeing more cases where sex offenders are using social networking sites to conceal their identities in order to contact children.”
People can use the ClickCEOP button, available as a Facebook ‘app’, to report online grooming and inappropriate sexual behaviour.
A spokesman for children’s charity Kidscape said: ”These figures are quite alarming, but they do reflect the growing use of Facebook by the general population.
”It must be remembered that any site operating user accounts has the potential for users to create false accounts.
”We know that anonymous profiles can lead to a wide range of cyber crime not least bullying and stalking.
”The sheer volume of personal information that individuals include in their profiles without activating all the appropriate privacy settings is a huge concern.
”These figures, showing a significant increase in crime generated through an online source are an urgent reminder that we must increase our personal safety settings in cyber space.”
A Facebook spokesman yesterday said it is ”no surprise” that the social networking site is regularly mentioned in the reporting of crimes to police.
He said: ”With the number of people using Facebook rising from 100 million globally in August 2008 to over 500 million globally in December 2010, Facebook’s name is featuring more frequently in the conversations we are all having every day.
”As such it is no surprise Facebook is also mentioned in criminal reporting.
”While there is a correlation between Facebook’s growing size and the number of calls, there is no evidence to suggest that the use of Facebook was the cause or carrier of a criminal act in any of the phone calls referenced.”
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This just shows us how insecure facebook is and the repercussions this could have. Facebook has become too insecure and is almost unusable today. No content on facebook is safe. I have quit facebook in disgust and will be joining a safer social networking platform like MyCube or Diaspora as soon as they release
74 times increase from a statistically small sample holds far less weight, but let’s go with it for now.
In that time, facebook (using roughly same date ranges as report) membership has about quintupled. Also, average number of friends has around doubled (twice opportunity). Taking that weighting into account, a 7.4 times increase.
Now, let’s remember that statistically small sample. On top of that add things such as the growth from a more student/young professional user base to the broader population and the impact that would have on the likelihood of criminal activities facebook could be involved in.
Unless you want to sensationalise, how are you making anything approaching a fair comparison between figures when using 7400% as a figure?