AN OFFICER in charge of cracking down on social network grooming has said he hopes his work has made the internet safer for young people.
Detective Inspector Rob Walker was given an award alongside Detective Sergeant Simon Dunn for their determination and commitment in catching those preying on young people on social networking sites such as Facebook.
Speaking before the ceremony, Det Insp Walker said social grooming was a big problem throughout the whole county and had serious consequences.
He said: “The vast majority of people using social networks use it for genuine reasons. There is, though, a small minority of people who will use it for sexualised contact with children.”
Det Insp Walker said it was important parents kept a close eye on who their children were talking to on the internet.
During the awards, the two men were praised for their work in catching a 31-year-old Worthing man who used social networking sites to groom young people and sexually assault a girl.
The investigation was over a 12-month period and involved monitoring Facebook as well as other social networking sites.
The man was subsequently charged and convicted, receiving a custodial sentence and inclusion on the Sex Offenders’ register.
Det Insp Walker said those targeted by the man were young girls aged between 10 and 14, with the man pretending to be a 12-year-old girl.
Chief Inspector Allan Lowe described their work as “instrumental”, adding: “The officers employed specialist policing tactics showing that the internet affords no anonymity to criminals.
“The officers were determined to hold this individual to account while protecting the victims and they could ultimately have stopped other young people being seriously offended against.”
Police officers and members of the public who have received awards are featured in area-specific special reports in the Thursday, January 20 editions of the Worthing Herald, Lancing Herald, Shoreham Herald, Steyning Herald and Littlehampton Gazette.