Paedophiles across the world are hunting down intimate pictures of teenagers using social media sites, Lincolnshire Police have warned.
Officers say they have started to notice a worrying trend of paedophiles tracking down “imprints” of web pages to find pictures which have been removed.
These explicit images of young people have mostly been exchanged on youngsters’ mobile phones and made public following arguments or relationship breakdowns.
Police are now going into Lincolnshire schools to warn teenagers that even if pictures are deleted from social media, they can still be found.
Detective Sergeant Alison Smith, who heads up the force’s Child Sex Exploitation Team, said: “Once you have let an image go, anyone can get hold of it. We have got very big enquiries going on in relation to this sort of behaviour where people are extorting pictures out of young girls in Lincolnshire.
“There are a variety of people asking for these photographs. You have got teenagers with a fixation, you have got the next sinister level of people interested in going online and grooming young girls, right through really to encouraging young people to go on to meet.”
She added: “We are not saying every single image ends up in the hands of paedophiles, but they will in theory try every method they can possibly get.”
Detective Inspector Simon Lovett said: “Lincolnshire Police are aware of cases where these images have ended up in the possession of paedophiles. Once an image is sent, it is no longer private, and there is no control as to who accesses it, and what’s done with it.
“Teenagers think everything they do in their bedroom is private but what they have got is a window to the world looking in.”
Detective Sergeant Vicky Midgley works on the frontline in Lincolnshire Police’s Internet Child Abuse Team, which gathers photo evidence from computers and hard drives seized from suspected paedophiles.
She said teenagers sending such pictures are a growing concern for the team.
“They say ‘he was my boyfriend’ but it is now out there and they don’t realise some of these guys are now looking at them,” she said.
Teenagers who ‘sext’ or send pictures of their bodies to others, or make another teen send pictures of themselves, are breaking the law.
Source: Lincolnshire Echo