The number of child sexual abuse image crimes recorded in Cambridgeshire has surged by 343 per cent over the last five years, the NSPCC has revealed.  

A Freedom of Information request to the police found there were 164 crimes of this nature recorded in 2017/18, compared to 727 in 2022/23. 

Cambridgeshire’s five year percentage increase was the highest recorded in the East of England. 

The analysis also found the region’s six police forces had reports of more than 4,300 offences of child abuse images collected and distributed in 2022/23.  

Nationally, where police disclosed further information, Snapchat was involved in almost half of incidences (44 per cent).  

Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp were mentioned in a quarter. 

The NSPCC says the figures highlight action is needed to tackle the issue.  

Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said: “It’s alarming to see online child abuse continue to rise, especially when tech companies should be acting to make their sites safe by design ahead of incoming regulation.  

“Behind these crimes are children who have been targeted by adults who are able to organise and share sexual abuse with other offenders seamlessly across social media and messaging apps.  

“The Online Safety Act sets out robust measures to make children fundamentally safer on the sites and apps they use so they can enjoy the benefits of a healthy online experience.  

“Ofcom has been quick off the blocks but must act with greater ambition to ensure companies prioritise child safety in the comprehensive way that is so desperately needed.”  

A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire Police said child protection is among its priorities.  

She said: “We have a dedicated unit to investigate child abuse and we offer regular training to frontline officers to increase their knowledge of child abuse and how to spot the warning signs.  

“This training coincides with the ongoing campaign work we have been doing to raise public awareness of abuse and encourage people to report concerns.” 

Ofcom says protecting children online is its "number one priority" and relevant consultations are underway with regards to the Online Safety Act. 

A Snapchat spokesperson added: "Child sexual abuse is horrific and has no place on Snapchat.

"We use cutting-edge detection technology to find and remove this type of content, and work with police to support their investigations."

He also said the platform has extra safety features for 13-17-year-olds, including pop-up warnings if they're contacted by someone they don't know.