Online grooming is “grossly under-reported” with many children unable to distinguish between internet and real-life friends, police believe.
Predatory paedophiles contact hundreds of children using social media, hoping to entice them into having sex, detectives from the Metropolitan Police’s Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command said as rapper Daniel Rodriguez who groomed schoolgirls was sentenced for 16 years.
Detective Superintendent John Macdonald said that men approaching young girls through social media is a “real risk” and something police are “particularly concerned about”.
He said figures for online grooming are not “any reflection on what is actually happening”, and that police are dealing with other investigations similar to the Rodriguez case where men have approached “many, many hundreds” of girls online and tried to “befriend them”.
After “lavishing affection on them and then persuading them to come and meet them as potential boyfriend material”, the men take the opportunity to sexually abuse them, Mr Macdonald said.
“Although it’s not possible to put a perspective on how many people are doing this, I feel that it is a real risk in terms of child sexual exploitation and something concerning that we need to tell the public about.
“The tactic is to approach hundreds and hundreds of children, just to try and hook two, three or four that they then have sex with. The level of success of what they actually do is quite low but the results of that are incredibly serious.”
Mr Macdonald said children often do not report the abuse because they are not aware they are victims.
He said other children might have been abused by Rodriguez, but officers are not aware of them despite contacting other girls he approached online.
“Bearing in mind that of the six that he has been convicted of, none of them came forward originally. It is just reflective of the vast under-reporting of this type of case — it is a concern.”
Rodriguez, also known as Grymey D, used Instagram, Facebook and Blackberry Messenger to contact girls who he invited to his home.
Videos found on devices in his bedroom at his parents’ house showed Rodriguez engaging in sex with young girls.
The 28-year-old of Hackney, north London, deliberately targeted “vulnerable and impressionable” young girls in order to carry out “deviant sexual fantasies”, Judge Joanna Greenberg QC said
In one encounter, Rodriguez filmed himself having sex with a 14-year-old girl who had arrived at his house wearing her school uniform.
Rodriguez was caught when detectives examined the phone of a 14-year-old girl and found messages suggesting he was in a sexual relationship with her.
She told officers he had first contacted her on Instagram when she was 13, and she was 14 when she visited his home, where he engaged in sexual activity with her on her second visit.
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